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One of the absurd moments in the confounding affair of outgoing president Moshe Katsav was when his son-in-law, attorney Levy Amitay, explained in a television interview that the wrong done to his father-in-law exemplifies why quality people are put off from entering public life. In other words, Katsav is one of the giants who was good enough to bestow his presence on the public arena, but the dirt he had to eat, not through any fault of his own, will be a lesson for all those distinguished people. They will steer clear of politics and abandon the people and state to mediocrities.

The self-righteous shall live by his faith - and human quality and dignity are in the eyes of the beholder. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz also has concepts regarding dignity; one of his reasons for omitting all the serious charges from the Katsav indictment was to preserve the dignity of the presidency. That is tantamount to Mazuz saying: Never mind the dignity of the young women who wound up battered by Katsav's harassment, never mind his despicable behavior, and getting to the truth isn't that important either - what counts is the outward impression. It does not behoove a country to have the person symbolizing it sit accused of serious sex offenses; better to spare it the embarrassment and sweep the filth under the rug.

From Mazuz's logic we may derive that it is unbecoming for prime minister Ariel Sharon and/or his son to be put on trial for bribery - and therefore better to conclude that there is nothing to the police findings. And it is undignified for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to have to face judges over inappropriate conduct ascribed to him - and therefore better to exempt him from the tribulations of a trial. And it is not fitting for the finance minister to be accused of something - and therefore proper to make do with transferring him to another post. And it is undesirable that the Tax Authority heads be forced to explain their conduct in court - and therefore better to end their investigation quietly and bring about their dismissal.

If the need to preserve the dignity of the post had guided Mazuz's predecessors, then Asher Yadlin, who is a candidate to head the Bank of Israel, would not have gone on trial, and Shas leader Aryeh Deri would not have gone to prison. Mazuz's seat was previously occupied by jurists who possessed a sense of justice and firmness that allowed them to take on prime ministers, army commanders, Shin Bet chiefs, ministers and Knesset members. Apparently, Mazuz is made of a different cloth.

Two or three months ago, Mazuz appeared to be the last refuge for the citizen worried about his country's propriety. Amid the wave of investigations and charges against the country's leaders, the attorney general took a firm moral stand, redrawing the rules of permission and prohibition in public life and radiating confidence in the righteousness of his path. Along came his decision last Thursday - and destroyed the faith in him and his reasoning. Mazuz now comes across as a partner to the maneuver to get Katsav off the hook.

Mazuz was so concerned about preserving the dignity of the presidency that he forgot to preserve the dignity and standing of the attorney general. He thought that by cutting a deal with Katsav's lawyers, he would remove from the public agenda the disgrace of the president's conduct. But he failed to take into account that dissolving the case does not put an end to it, did not allow it to be resolved, and that it will eat away at the citizen's attitude toward the law for a long time to come.

The general picture is known: Moshe Katsav was a serial harasser; a long series of young women under his authority fell victim to his urges. Several of them rebuffed him; others, apparently those weaker emotionally, were compelled to acquiesce. The indictment does not reflect any of this. The plea bargain lets Katsav off easy, and Mazuz had a hand in this.

It is indeed not always possible to translate the findings of police investigations into judicial evidence, but the gap between Mazuz's announcements of the offenses ascribed to Katsav and those in the indictment arouses suspicions of a conspiracy, and certainly attests to extremely flawed judgment. This is a completely unreasonable outcome that calls for intervention by the courts.