Legal Analysis / A Fire in the Heart of Democracy

Two fires occurred at the end of 2010. One was in the heart of Mount Carmel and the other was in the heart of Israeli democracy.

Every Israeli should be disturbed by the offenses of which ex-President Moshe Katsav was unanimously convicted yesterday − two counts of rape and one count each of forcible indecent assault, indecent assault and sexual harassment. They are a knife in the heart of the rule of law, which the president symbolizes and is meant to protect.

The conviction is painful to anyone who believes that expert judges − George Karra, Miriam Sololov and Judith Shevach − did their jobs and acted according to their best judgment in analyzing the evidence.

The judges said their work was in no way difficult “in light of the abundance of reinforcement on the one hand and the abundance of lies and half-truths on the other.”

The judges found the testimony of A. from the Tourism Ministry “completely credible,” especially as most of her statements were reinforced by other evidence, some of which she was not even aware.

The three judges found the defendant’s testimony insincere and “riddled with lies,” manipulation and concealment of information. These firm statements ‏(on page 15 of the summary prepared by the judges‏) are the most serious of all: Presenting a president as a bold-faced liar is a low point in the Israeli experience. His conviction for obstruction of justice is harsh and infuriating as it undermines the foundations of government. His acquittal for witness tampering pours salt on the wounds.

The verdict utterly rejected all of Katsav’s arguments while accepting the version of A. from the Ministry of Tourism, though she went back to work at the President’s Residence after the rapes. The formulation of the verdict will likely be grounds for Katsav to appeal to the Supreme Court after sentencing.

Former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who made the decision to indict Katsav, and prosecutors Ronit Amiel, Nissim Merom and Meytal Ilan, came out victorious. That, too, is equality before the law; only the office of presidency was shamed.

Since yesterday, we have before us a convicted president who bears a terrible shame, pending an appeal, who has written a disgraceful chapter in the book of Israeli democracy.