Israel's Rapist Ex-president Moshe Katsav Denied Early Release From Prison

Parole board rejects Moshe Katsav's bid for release from prison after serving two-thirds of his seven year-term.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav outside of prison, 2012.
Moti Milrod

A parole board rejected on Wednesday former President Moshe Katsav's bid for early release. 

The board unanimously ruled that Katsav should complete his seven-year jail term. Katsav's lawyer Zion Amir said that the former president intends to appeal the ruling.

Katsav, Israel's eighth president, was convicted in 2010 of rape, commission of an indecent act by force, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice.

The parole board's ruling said that Katsav is not willing to admit to the offenses in which he was convicted and to accept responsibility for his actions. 

The parole board said that Katsav sees himself as a victim and that he is blaming "external factors" for his circumstances. The board stated that Katsav "failed to show remorse or empathy toward that victims, while repeating the high price that he has paid and continues to pay."

Katsav "continues to claim his innocence despite the court's ruling in the case, and is busy of trying to prove his innocence... as if there was no due process," the board added, while noting that Katsav refused to undergo rehabilitation programs in prison.

Representatives of the State Prosecution did not attend the parole hearing on Wednesday due to a labor dispute.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum welcomed the parole board's decision.

"I applaud the decision by the parole board," MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint List), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women said. The ruling "shows it understands the importance of the criminal confessing to his deeds and expressing remorse for them.  It is a clear message to society that the justice system will not tolerate scorn for crimes against women, especially when the perpetrator is a leading public figure."

Shulamit Mualem-Rafaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) said that "a man who never expressed remorse for his grave deeds and shamelessly attacked the women who complained against him is not worthy of leniency."

Meretz lawmakers Zahava Gal-On, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg said that the ruling was an "important, decision" and said it was "another step in the revolution that will finally end the era in which the body, soul and future of women are forfeit."

"The victims of Katsav's sexual crimes will pay the price of his actions forever, and the social price women who stand up to a powerful, well connected man are forced to pay," they said in a statement. "Nothing can give them 'early release'. It is well and good that the legal system elected not to give him early release."

Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said that "a rapist who refuses to take responsibility for his deeds does not deserve to have his punishment truncated. Any other decision by the committee would have been a violation of the public trust and abandonment of the former president's victims. "

Last week, Katsav appeared before the parole board at a hearing that lasted 11 hours. Katsav, who was president of Israel between 2000 and 2007, pleaded to the parole board asking that they reduce his prison term by a third.

Former President Moshe Katsav deemed two counts of rape a mere “misunderstanding on the women’s part” during a parole hearing on Sunday, while his lawyer viciously assailed the complainants, sources in the prosecution said on Tuesday. Katsav said he had a relationship with both women, and because they were young and inexperienced, they didn’t understand the nature of a relationship and misinterpreted his acts. He also said he was willing to apologize, but for a misunderstanding, not for rape.

Consequently, the sources said, the hearing strengthened the prosecution’s view that Katsav doesn’t understand the gravity of what he did, and therefore doesn’t deserve parole.

During the hearing, Katsav's attorney, Zion Amir, assailed the principal complainant, the sources added. Inter alia, he said she was currently married with children, and therefore clearly hadn’t suffered by his client’s acts, so Katsav’s continued imprisonment served nothing but vengeance. Amir also accused the her of intentionally humiliating Katsav in her statements to the media.

The state opposed Katsav's request on the grounds that he has never admitted to the offenses hadn't expressed remorse, which, according to the state, means he hasn’t undergone substantial rehabilitation. Granting parole under such circumstances, the prosecution argued, would send the wrong message to victims of sexual offenses and could do damage to the public’s faith in the judicial system.