Without Regret

The truly sad days were those in which a man who was tourism minister, transportation minister and president harassed and raped.


Sometimes, the moment when a person's sentence is read out in court is one that engenders compassion. Moshe Katsav engendered no compassion yesterday. When his verdict was read out some three months ago, my heart did go out to him. Sitting there alone in the dock, sipping water, silent, his face ashen. Yesterday there was no water, no silence and no compassion. Katsav lashed out a number of times at the judges, as if he imagined he was Dreyfus.

He entered the courtroom surrounded by his male relatives, who encircled him as in some ancient rite, or as if they were a presidential security detail. In that family, there are no women, it seems. Only men, about 20 of them, looking grim, mostly wearing knitted skullcaps, one of them occasionally whispering something into someone else's ear. Katsav waited before going out to face the cameras, as if that mattered any more. Not a word about asking for forgiveness, of course, not a hint of a confession not to mention remorse. Even "the girls" know that they lied, he said.

He listened to the majority opinion quietly, calling out only once: "No, I didn't submit petitions to the High Court," and twice getting up to whisper something to his lawyer Zion Amir, as if ignoring Judge George Karra's lengthy, quiet and harsh reading of the sentence. But when Judge Judith Shevach began scandalously to excoriate the media, the women demonstrators and the attorney general, Katsav felt it like a tailwind, and shouted: "The lie has won, Zion" to his attorney. To the bench: "You have allowed evil to triumph." And to his son, who came to him during the reading of the minority opinion and was smothered in kisses from his convict father: "They're wrong; it's all a lie."

Judge Shevach's reading would not shame a populist speech in the town square: If Katsav was "not worthy of the mercy of the court, the people of Israel, whose president he was, is certainly worthy." The shame has been removed, she said, and that should suffice. She said Kastav was the victim of a "field court marshal" and therefore she had sought a (very ) lenient sentence.

Judge Shevach must be told that the media was doing its job, and so were the women protesters. Their actions should not have influenced the court. That is the fate of a public figure on whom society bestows luxuries for years. When he falls, the public judges him harshly.

Then one of Katsav's brothers stood and shouted rudely at Karra, "stop smiling under your moustache." Karra has no mustache, although he is an Arab, and as far as I could see, he was not smiling. Karra ignored him; such an outburst from anyone else would have meant ejection from the courtroom.

Karra's key statement yesterday - that Katsav "had committed the acts like an ordinary person, and like any other man and he must bear his punishment - should enter the annals of Israeli jurisprudence. Everyone, from the serving president down, said that yesterday was a sad day. But the truly sad days were those in which a man who was tourism minister, transportation minister and president harassed and raped.