Take Responsibility for Your Deeds, Moshe Katsav

The former president needs to express regret and serve his punishment.

Good morning to you too. You lavished a special blessing upon me in the courtroom. Many wondered what I had received; I, too, wondered. Some thought you had offered me earnest blessings, but I knew that what you said was, of course, uttered in deep malice, and I think I know why. Of the flood of articles written to denounce you, you always remember a sentence in an article I published the day after you were elected president.

Naively, at the time I believed in Shimon Peres, whom you defeated. I wrote at the time: "This week, when tomatoes were hurled at you once again, many Israelis felt the way they felt the night Yitzhak Rabin was murdered .... For them, hopes have once again been shattered, and a nightmare has returned."

Today, I wouldn't write that way. At the time, I still believed that Peres would bring peace and you would not. And you were quick to show where you stood - a week after you entered the President's Residence, you declared that the despicable Jewish settlement in Hebron would remain on the ground forever. That's exactly what I was talking about. Self-servingly, you believed that my words referred to your ethnic origins. This is, of course, an erroneous interpretation. Of course, I exaggerated in comparing emotions regarding Peres' defeat and the Rabin assassination. And I regret this, but none of this explains why the words remained indelibly inscribed in your memory.

"A nightmare has returned"? I didn't know what I was talking about at the time. As it turned out, this week the nightmare reached its climax. A nightmare that for several years belonged to a few women who worked for you has turned into a national nightmare. This nightmare, which occurred between the walls of room 1817 in Jerusalem's Plaza Hotel, in an apartment and in your Tel Aviv office, now belongs to everyone.

Still, I won't join those who dance on your spilled blood. The court's resolute verdict suffices, and the ballet of words pirouetting in the press is superfluous. Spicy descriptions of what is in store for you in a sex offenders' prison ward, and the competition to see who can most caustically denounce your name, are unnecessary. The decisive verdict suffices.

Apparently, you still don't understand what you did, and why you were embroiled in this holy uproar. In your own mind, you must be a victim, whereas you see the real victims, the women whose pants you pulled down and whose flesh you took by force, as bearing false witness. When I looked at you, sitting alone on the defendant's bench, your body shrinking and your blood boiling as each clause of the verdict was read out, accompanied by searing descriptions of your actions, I felt no punitive satisfaction. This is a tragedy, one that you delivered to the souls and bodies of your victims, and to yourself, with your unbridled lust. I felt neither compassion nor vindictive joy.

We have never had a president who left his mark on something. Without intending to do so, you have left your mark. You'll be remembered more than the others. Women in Israel (and, one hopes, men ) will remember you. Thanks to you, women who have an obligation to issue complaints will remember to do so. Thanks to you, some men will remember that they have a duty to treat a woman as a person with equal rights, and that power and authority do not provide an excuse to break the law.

These women and men will remember not only that the thief eventually finds the noose, but also that a rapist, even if he is the president, must pay for his crime. They will remember you, because thanks to you we have had a moment of insight showing that despite everything that has occurred here recently, an element of equality before the law remains. That is a real legacy, one that you left after one unfinished term as president.

Were I in your shoes - and there's no chance of that - I would have long ago assumed responsibility for my failures, expressed deep contrition, and apologized to my victims. I would not appeal the verdict; in any case, there's virtually no chance it will be altered. I would accept that I received what I deserved, and I would make haste to serve my punishment, in an attitude of real contrition.

If a sentence I wrote 10 years ago has such resonance in your mind, maybe this one will also echo in your mind, as an ex-president: Take full responsibility for your deeds, Moshe Katsav, express regret and serve your punishment. Then we will all have a morning that's a little better.