ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Katsav’s Tirade

Katsav’s Tirade

26 January 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Israeli President Moshe Katsav’s speech on Wednesday was a complete disaster. Charged with differing levels of sexual harassment and one count of rape in relation to four female workers serving in his offices over the years, he not only denied the allegations but lashed out against the conspiracy of supposed evil doers against him. Fuming to the point of losing his wits he went on a tirade against the Attorney General (government legal advisor) Menny Mazuz, the police, the plaintiffs and especially the press - and even more so Channel 2 TV which originally broke the story. The President would have us believe the whole issue was a personal vendetta now taking on national proportions, all because he unexpectedly won the 2000 presidential elections against Shimon Peres (the secret Knesset vote was a close 63 – 57). Never has such a prime time, nationally broadcast, embarrassing tirade hit the country like this. “Humiliation” describes this spectacle best.

It is often said that peoples get the leadership they deserve. Let us hope that in our case it is a fluke, because if this is the true face of what Israel and the Jewish People deserve, we are in bad shape. As written previously in these columns, the President should resign. Instead he chose “temporary incapacity” as allowed by law. As explained in today’s Haaretz editorial, incapacity is not the issue, but rather dragging out the time that Katsav remains president is the heart of the matter. The status can remain for three months and be renewed for another three. Then, it just so happens, the President’s term of office is over. His request was granted by the Knesset committee 13 – 11. Those opposing the request demanded his immediate resignation. Katsav himself has promised that if indicted, he will resign. In the meantime he has a hearing with AG Mazuz. The President is convinced that Mazuz will cancel all charges after the hearing.

Simultaneously, Knesset members led by Meretz MK Zahava Galon have gathered more than the 20 signatures necessary to begin a debate on impeachment. However, to remove Katsav, 90 MKs must vote for the measure. At the moment Galon does not stand a chance.

As for the hearing, Mazuz is said to be ready at any time, but it is impossible to know when it will take place and how long the humiliations will drag on. And before we forget, let us remember that Katsav is innocent until proven guilty, however that does not mean we should suffer the incapacitation of the president’s office as a result, even if Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik temporarily fills that position doing the “bare minimum” in her own words.

Public office should not be held hostage to personal legal problems. Certainly if an indictment is handed down the President must resign as he, himself has agreed. He can even be impeached for “behavior unbecoming of the presidency” such as the relations he has had with these women. But if more proof is necessary, Wednesday’s speech provided the answer. In the most public manner, Katsav accused virtually the entire state system of trying to lynch him for personal reasons. Nothing could undermine freedom and democracy more. Such behavior makes him unworthy to be President even a minute longer.