Sisterhood Blog

Former Israeli President Katsav Convicted of Rape

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Former President of Israel Moshe Katsav was convicted Thursday on two counts of rape and other counts of sexual harassment and indecent acts by force against three women who worked for him while he was in government.

The conviction, which caps a 19-month-long trial, concludes the first criminal trial of a former Israeli president in Israel’s history.

The lengthy decision rendered by the three judge panel found that the testimony of “Aleph,” who worked for Katsav in the Ministry of Tourism and accused him of two counts of rape, was supported by new evidence that came to light during trial. The judges also rejected Katsav’s claim that he was indicted by the media, and added that he brought the media attention on himself — in particular with his three and a half hour televised rant in March 2009 following which several of his own advisers resigned.

“Katsav’s testimony was scattered with lies, big and small,” the decision reads, “and demonstrated his many attempts to manipulate and hide evidence…. He humiliated his victims and used his authority to have his way with them sexually.”

Katsav, 65, was convicted on two counts of rape, indecent acts by force, and sexual harassment against “Aleph” of the Ministry of Tourism, as well as counts of sexual harassment against “Heh” of the President’s Office, and indecent acts and sexual harassment against “Lamed,” who was then an 18-year old National Service volunteer in the President’s Office. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice in Lamed’s investigation, but was cleared on charges of witness tampering. The sentence for rape is up to 16 years in prison.

“This is not a happy day, or an easy day, for the State of Israel,” said Prosecutor Ronit Amiel, “but it is a day of honor for Israel’s system of democracy. It shows that in Israel, even princes and presidents who need to be brought to justice will be.”

Rape trials tend to have a direct influence on other victims’ willingness to come forward, according to Inbar Cohen of Israel’s Association of Rape Crisis. Cohen said the number of calls received at rape crisis centers and hotlines Centers in Israel — which averages 40,000 a year — spikes after rape convictions. “When victims watch an event like this, it gives them the courage to speak out, and an ability to believe in the system,” she said.

The case all began in 2006 with an investigation into Katsav’s complaint about being blackmailed by one of his accusers. The investigation turned on its head when police began investigating Katsav instead for acts of sexual violence. Although the police believed the women, Attorney General at the time Meni Mazuz expressed doubts, and he was later criticized for the way he handled the women’s testimony. Some critics said he lacked an understanding the dynamics of testimony in cases of trauma, in which victims can have difficulty retaining a precise timeline and sometimes have blanks in their narrative due to repressed memories.

The following year Mazuz announced that he arrived at a plea bargain agreement with Katsav’s attorneys, for which Katsav would plead guilty but have a suspended sentence and avoid jail time. Mazuz had told the public that testimony of the primary complainant, a President’s Office employee also called “Aleph,” was unreliable. The plea deal was widely blasted by prominent female politicians and Israeli women’s groups. In 2008, Katsav, who resigned as president the previous year, surprised the judges, the Attorney General and some of his own counselors, by announcing that he rejected the plea bargain and will take his chances with a trial. Mazuz was forced to drop “Aleph” of the President’s Office from the indictment after having publicly questioned her testimony. She responded with a widely watched press conference in which she described the intimate details of the alleged rape.

Following Thursday’s conviction Knesset opposition leader Tzipi Livni told reporters, “A day when a public official is convicted of rape is not a simple day for the State of Israel. But there is an important message here for public officials, and a message in support of victims of sexual violence.”

MK Orit Zuaretz, a vocal advocate for victims of violence, added, “This is a clear message to victims: Go and complain! And it is also a clear message to us, elected officials, that whoever knows and stays quiet is an accomplice to the crime.”

But Katsav’s son Boaz said he supported his father and, during a press conference, following the verdict, said, “We will continue to struggle and fight, with our heads held high and continue to be proud of our father, and let the entire nation know that our father, the eighth president of Israel, is innocent.”

Katsav’s legal team said they would recommend appeal.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rape, Moshe Katzav, Moshe Katsav

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.