Another damaging player - the attorney general - has now bolstered the justice minister's campaign against the justice system. If Daniel Friedmann thinks the court system is flawed, Menachem Mazuz has made it irrelevant. For the second time in his career, Mazuz flinched at the moment of truth and retreated: He did so the first time in the Greek island affair and now with regard to Moshe Katsav.
Someone who has succeeded until now in creating the impression that he is carrying out his role with courage and integrity has made the blunder of a lifetime - for the second time. Someone who just days ago delivered a scathing speech condemning the corruption spreading through Israeli society made a decision that increases the lack of trust in the justice system, the inequality before the law and the reticence of a large number of victims from filing complaints.
The person who just several months ago spoke out determinedly and boldly against the president has made a hasty retreat. Either Mazuz made false accusations at the time, or he has now backed down unnecessarily. It is difficult to say which is worse. Either way, he must be held accountable. The claim that the original charges against the president were designed only to intimidate him and pressure him to sign a plea bargain is infuriating. Mazuz, who said he feared for the honor of the institution of the presidency, extorted a president. It is actually Mazuz's decision that tarnishes the name of the state, if we are already addressing that issue. An Israel that places its president on trial without cutting any deals is a much stronger Israel than one that lacks equality before the law, one in which hearings - for VIPs only - can change matters completely.
There should be no plea bargains for a president who is a suspect. Precisely because of his exalted standing, the accusations should be clarified in only one place: the court. It is less important for Israeli society to know whether the average Joe is guilty. This is not true when it comes to "Citizen No. 1." Now we are left with a large doubt eating away at our hearts: Did we have a rapist president or a failed attorney general?
Mazuz is no judge and he is not responsible for determining the complainants' credibility. His remarks in the press briefing - that he believes A.'s testimony but fears the court would not believe it - are scandalous: This is precisely the reason for having a court. No less scandalous is his statement that, "What is important is not this or that detail in the indictment - but rather, whether there is a conviction." If Mazuz were a judge, this statement would have defined a distorted rule: The same law applies to both the pickpocket and the murderer, as long as there is a conviction. Many defense attorneys would happily rely on this distorted rule, which not only harms the work of the court but also renders it irrelevant. If Mazuz is right, then why do we need all the court hearings? We can simply decide whether to convict or acquit - the crime in question is of no importance. The fact that Haim Ramon, who was convicted of less severe crimes than those of which the president is suspected, received a more severe sentence is also puzzling.
But the damage to the justice system is only one of the harsh aspects of the affair. The second aspect, the social one, is no less severe. Katsav was convicted of sex offenses. Unlike any other crime, we still associate the person who complains of having suffered this type of offense with shame. As opposed to the suspects, it is the complainant who is disgraced. A. still appeared with her face blurred; the complainant against attorney Amos Maimon committed suicide. In no other area is the victim compelled to be ashamed for being a victim. Now Mazuz came and told the complainant: "Save yourself this disgrace. There's no point in it." Years of efforts to encourage victims of sexual assault to summon the courage to complain suddenly collapsed. From now on, every Hebrew woman will know: If your boss has harassed you again, pulled out his sexual organ or pinned his body against yours by the bookcase, has suggested that you come to work without underwear or has even raped you - deal with it on your own. Mazuz's state will not come to your defense, particularly when a public official is involved.
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