Katsav's Private Eye: The Never-ending Story

Ex-president's private investigators scandal could be mistaken for Hollywood screenplay.

The director of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem, Renen Schorr, was shocked yesterday to hear that private investigators for Moshe Katsav had taken his school's name in vain. They had masqueraded as students collecting material for a film in their effort to get witnesses to talk to, and, the police suspect, to suborn and harass them.

From Humphrey Bogart in the role of Sam Spade to detective-novel author Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler's fictional private eye Philip Marlowe and Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown," the private investigator is a known cinematic type, often unruly and haggard. Schorr lives in Tel Aviv in a building that once belonged to a law firm where Avigdor Feldman started out practicing law. But beyond that connection, who better than Feldman to confirm that a particularly creative imagination is needed to connect "The Maltese Falcon" with the rapist from Kiryat Malakhi.

Moshe Katsav
Ilan Assayag

And yet, there's a screenplay here somewhere. The two heroes would be Katsav and the obstinate policeman with the tense look in his eye - investigations chief Yoav Segalovich. They've been facing off for five years.

When the movie starts, Brig. Gen. Segalovich is checking out President Katsav's complaint about a blackmail attempt. Segalovich quickly realizes that the truth is very different and recommends that Katsav be indicted for rape and other offenses.

Toward the end of the movie, Katsav is an ex-president about to appeal his seven-year sentence, and Segalovich is a major general with the second most important job at the police. Then, after all the other heroes - including an attorney general and a state prosecutor - have disappeared over the horizon, another plot twist kicks in.

The subplot about the private investigators could have pilfered the title of the movie "The NeverEnding Story." Somehow, for very important people, especially leading politicians, such affairs really never do end. They, or their minions, try to influence investigators or persuade their commanding officers to appoint another team. They explain to the prosecution why there is actually no case. They pressure the attorney general. They put together a merciful plea bargain. They show witnesses the light. They are creative in an appeal.

Efforts to stymie investigations all the way to dubious presidential pardons are a long tradition in this country. To name a few: the cases of Bus 300; Aryeh Deri; the Nimrodi brothers (where an investigator collected information from and about a key witness in the guise of researching a book ); Yitzhak Mordechai; Haim Ramon (congratulations on the fifth anniversary of that case ); Avigdor Lieberman; and Ehud Olmert.

The suspect is never guilty. You only have to find, or invent, proof that somebody framed him, that some woman told a lie about him. If police masquerade as journalists, and journalists as police, to glean information, it's only natural that hired private eyes will end up masquerading as movie-makers.

After Justice Yoram Danziger gave Katsav the unpreceded opportunity to stay out of jail while his appeal was under consideration, there were two developments: one legal and one criminal. The two could be connected.

The legal development was the assumption, presented by Feldman to the Supreme Court, that Katsav had had consensual sex with the three women who worked for him. He made this assumption, even though his client had claimed there had been no sexual relations, and the court had determined that there had been and they were nonconsensual. That's the lawyer's assumption, not Katsav's stand, and Feldman wants the Supreme Court to adopt it and force it on his client.

The alleged criminal development is the secret recording of witnesses giving a different version of events than what they had told the police and the court. These recordings might also strengthen this new version of consensual sex.

It should come as no surprise that the men of the Katsav family who hired the private-investigations firm are hiding behind a document that required the firm to act within the law. Katsav is known to be a collector of documents such as the letters of affection and longing from the women of the President's Residence.

It's hard to believe that people in Katsav's inner circle, like people in the inner circle around Deri and others before him, really believed they could destroy testimony that way. It seems that the target was not the minds of the judges, but rather the heart of Katsav's wife Gila. It was she they wanted to persuade that Moshe had not been unfaithful; at any rate, not nonconsensually.