A moment before the High Court’s ruling,
Moshe Katsav’s well-oiled public relations machine released a picture worth a thousand words for the benefit of Israel’s citizens. In the picture, the former president, wearing a track suit, is seen working at his backyard against the backdrop of his government-issued vehicle and bodyguards.
Despite the transparent manipulation, there was something in this message. Katsav is no longer the story, and neither are the women who complained about him. From now on, this story is about us.
For the second time in the past few weeks, Israeli citizens see how fundamental values that were the basis for the establishment of the state – accountability, the rule of law, and equality before the law – disappear under mountains of words and legal casuistry.
When it came to the Winograd Commission, just like in the Katsav case, the problem was not the ultimate decision, but rather, the zigzagging that led to it; the gap between a harsh interim report and softened final report both referring to the same war; the abyss between a severe indictment over rape and forceful indecent acts and a plea bargain on a hug and kiss on the cheek.
And of course, the problem is also the evasion of an incisive inquiry into the truth. In the case of the war, it was the avoidance of an official state inquiry, and in the Katsav case it was the decision to go for a plea bargain instead of a day in court, where the victims and not only the aggressor have the right to speak up.
The sense of mistrust and betrayal stems from this twilight zone, where things are decided behind closed doors. This is not good news for democracy.
It is difficult to sleep well at night with an attorney general that plays dumb, all the way from Ariel Sharon’s Greek Island affair to the Katsav case, and with prosecutors that betray their post. It is difficult to accept a High Court chief justice who is constantly attacked by a hostile justice minister and who finds it difficult to enforce her authority over her colleagues, just like in the Katsav ruling, where the chief justice was in the minority opinion.
Common sense and the gut cry out that in this type of ruling, the minority opinion should have won out and the plea bargain should have been annulled, especially as this was the view of Israel’s supreme legal authority.
Yet there are winners as well: Those who were quick to rush to the microphones and celebrate; less so Katsav, and more so the mercenaries who were paid to defend him. The wise-guy spinmeister Motti Morel, who rolled his eyes heavenward on behalf of his client and said: “Why should he be satisfied, because they spilled his blood?” Or big-shot attorney Zion Amir who arrogantly bid radio listeners farewell with a “good day.” Or Avigdor Feldman, who welcomed the interviewer with an “excellent morning” greeting.
Their good day is our bad day. Their excellent morning is a dark morning for all of us – a whole people who woke up to discover that it is the minority opinion.