The former president of Israel is being indicted on charges of rape and indecent assault. It's hard to believe that these words are being written - and on International Women's Day yet. This is a watershed moment. President Moshe Katsav, who thought he could evade the public eye, will be nakedly exposed to all and will be forced to say his piece.
The decision to indict Katsav sharpens the message that even the No. 1 citizen is obligated to keep his hands, and other body parts, to himself. It also constitutes a clear warning sign to all harassers, whether men or women, that no one is above the law and that the law is not on the side of anyone who exploits his or her position to harm others.
It has been a long wait, but the president will be indicted, and that's to the good. Such serious acts as those of which the president is accused cannot result in a plea bargain. The public needs to know what really happened behind Mr. Katsav's closed doors, and needs to see that in this case the severity of the punishment actually reflects the severity of the deed. If the president is convicted, he should be treated like any other rapist or sexual harasser; Katsav must realize that the status of the positions he held in the past cannot protect him now. This is an important message for the many men in Israel who still believe that their accomplishments in various fields protect them and allow them, while they mischievously wink, to act in ethically and sexually repugnant ways.
The fact that a decision was made to indict Katsav shows young women that it is acceptable to complain about someone who has harmed them, even if he holds a high position, or a very high position.
Over the past few months, it seemed that the former president was going to evade a trial. If that had been the case, Israeli society would have suffered for a long time, with the specter of sexual exploitation - along with that of the affront to women, and of the suspicion that women's cries will go unanswered - hanging over it. The decision to indict Katsav is an incentive for women who have been harmed at any point in their lives to confront their assailant, to stop being embarrassed and to start accusing.
At the end of the legal proceeding, we will know if there has been a desecration of the institution of the presidency, which, fortunately, is currently occupied by a man who is restoring honor to the President's Residence and to the State of Israel.
The allegations against Katsav compel us, however, to consider not just the man himself, but also the way in which Israel chooses its president and other public officials. The Katsav incident is a warning sign for all of us. It must not happen again.
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