Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nobody is above the law

Dan Margalit

Five years and four months after he tried to drag then Attorney General Menachem (Meni) Mazuz into an investigation against his employee, whom he accused of attempting to blackmail him on sexual charges, Moshe Katsav on Thursday walked the final stretch of this mine-strewn affair. The judgment was delivered by Supreme Court Justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran,

It was reasonable to assume that Katsav would be found guilty. The judgment was unanimous, and Katsav will be sent to jail for seven years. Today, the fog over this murky affair was finally lifted, but it will leave behind a trail of unanswered questions. Some are questions of substance, others are merely voyeuristic, but they are sure to arise at conferences, lectures, and meetings where participants engage in soul-searching.

One of these is more of a curiosity than a material question. How is it possible that an experienced attorney like Yaakov Neeman believed Katsav's assertion that he was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and as a result counseled him (quite reasonably) to ask for the attorney general's defense? It was this step that led to his disgraceful booting out of the President's Residence. And how is it that Mazuz, who heard the president deliver the same account as Neeman did, began to suspect he was jerking him around in their very first meeting?

The scandal has left another loose end. I was sitting in the Tel Aviv courtroom when Judge George Kara read out the verdict that tore Katsav's arguments to shreds, when suddenly the street outside burst into cheers, applause and cries of joy. "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls," advises the Book of Proverbs. The incident was embarrassing, and smacked of a spiritual lynching. We live in the Jewish state, not in Libya.

Of greater importance is the claim that the media knew about Katsav's crimes and remained silent. I am part of the minority that begs to differ. In those years I frequented the halls of the Knesset. Along with everyone else, I heard dozens of rumors, both true and false, concerning forbidden sexual relationships. I heard these things about Katsav, but not more than about any of his colleagues. Two such scandals came close to being reported by Shosh Mula at Yedioth Aharonoth and Shalom Yerushalmi at Ma'ariv. But neither reporter had a smoking gun. Those who claim otherwise need to consider the following scenario: the alleged crimes are exposed. But there is no proof. No victim comes forward to the police. Katsav does not come forward either – after all, it was he who effectively brought this whole calamity on himself. The media immediately comes under attack, and rightly so, for defaming an innocent family man. That would be libel, pure and simple, and that is why we could not report anything.

We also need a psychological explanation as to what was going on in Katsav's head when he rejected the cushy plea bargain obtained by his defense attorneys. Perhaps an invisible hand intervened from on high to make Katsav blunder and forgo the easy punishment. His obstinacy inadvertently served the cause of justice, and now he received a more suitable punishment.

Most important, the Katsav trial has laid to rest public debate over the deviant claim that it is unseemly for a high-ranking criminal to stand trial. Hypocrites and tricksters express shock over the notion that a sitting president could be ousted, or even a sitting prime minister. They would rather have criminal suspects retain their positions as president, prime minister or finance minister. But our judicial system stood tall and led all of these eminences to the defendant's bench. So it was with Katsav, and with convicted Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson and with other cases in which the outcome is pending. All this resonates to the glory of the state of Israel.

No comments: