New Prison Policy May Mean Early Parole for Israel's Rapist Ex-president

Prisoner rehab policy change could make Moshe Katsav, who is serving a seven-year sentence for rape, eligible for parole even without admitting he’d done wrong.

Former president Moshe Katsav leaves prison for a holiday break in 2015.
Nir Keidar

A policy change in prisoner rehabilitation techniques could mean that Israel's jailed former president, Moshe Katsav, may get out early after all, even without admitting any wrongdoing, which bars him from parole under the existing rules.

Katsav, Israel’s eighth president, was convicted in 2010 of rape, commission of an indecent act by force, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, but he never admitted to the offenses, or expressed remorse.

In April, the parole board rejected Katsav’s bid for early release and unanimously decided that he should complete his seven-year jail term. 

Admission and accepting responsibility for the crimes are preconditions for parole. However, new winds in criminology argue in favor of rehabilitating prisoners who deny wrongdoing as well. And thus, the rehabilitation authority is now proposing to suggest Katsav undergo a rehabilitation program provided outside prison, without admitting to a thing.

On Tuesday the court sat on Katsav’s appeal against the refusal to grant him parole, and decided to return the discussion to the parole board. Theoretically, the parole board can now approve Katsav’s release so he can undergo rehabilitation outside the prison.

Based on the change in rehabilitation policy, Katsav’s lawyer Shani Illouz feels the ex-president could be out in two to three months. The authority’s willingness to prepare a plan for the ex-president voids all the grounds cited by the parole board for its refusal to release him, she said.

In April, in an 11-hour hearing before the parole board, Katsav asked for his prison term to be reduced by a third. He deemed the two counts of rape a mere “misunderstanding on the women’s part,” while his lawyer viciously assailed the complainants, sources in the prosecution related afterwards. 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.

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

It bears noting that the Israel Prison Service has been holding therapy groups for prisoners who persist in denial. It recently opened a new group of the type and suggested that Katsav join it ahead of the next parole board hearing. At this stage, Katsav has not accepted the idea of joining the group, but he is expected to reject it, because the rehab section of the plan would be within prison – and would mean he would be staying in prison for at least the length of the six-month program.