Moshe Katsav expressed no remorse. Even if he sits in prison for another year and a half, five years or 20 years, he won’t confess. Not because he didn’t commit the acts for which he was convicted, but because he convinced himself he didn’t commit them. That’s how it is.
Denial mechanisms are stronger than any memory. Even if Katsav remembers every detail of the things he did, he won’t confess. He won’t confess, because he can’t now delete the stories that he told to his family (to his wife Gila, to his children and grandchildren), presenting a contradicting version that differs from the one he gave to them in the past.
And this is the only thing left for him for the rest of his life: his family. The possibility of losing them is worse for him than prison. You have to remember that this man did not go for a plea bargain that would have prevented him from spending a single day in prison, just because he didn’t want to change his story and admit his actions.
Regret, therefore, is not on the agenda. What is on the agenda is the shortening of his sentence due to his good behavior, because his release does not endanger the public and because of his likelihood for rehabilitation.
This success has enough arguments in his favor: Katsav was a model prisoner. As attest the various parties that carried out physical examinations to determine the potential level of danger that he poses, it’s very low. And if all that wasn’t TMI to the Israeli public’s ears, along came his best friend, Isaac Saluki, who stated that Katsav “can barely pee, ” as he told Rafi Reshef, all the while assuring us that he’s a walking corpse.
Are these reasons sufficient to shorten Katsav’s prison term? It turns out that the statistics don’t necessarily favor him: according to the Ministry of Justice, only 30 percent of inmates receive a shortening of one third of their sentences. It turns out that for ten years now there is a stricter policy regarding easing conditions for prisoners.
For the victims, women’s groups and female members of Knesset, Katsav’s early release is scandalous. Katsav is a symbol, and reducing his sentence—especially these days, when more and more senior figures are exposed and suspected or accused of sexual harassment in the army, the police and in politics— doesn’t send a good message.
This is not to mention the justified concern of the victims that Katsav will get out of prison and continue what he started on the eve of his imprisonment: vilifying and harassing complainants through associates, or any other possible way.
On Sunday, the parole board will sit and decide on his early release. It will discuss all aspects of this release. Expressing regret is not one of the required criteria. If the board decides to release him, Katsav will soon be out of prison. If not, it is not over yet.
A request for clemency from 2012 is lying on President Rivlin’s desk. The then-justice minister, Tzipi Livni, recommended not pardoning him and President Peres decided not to and left the request for Rivlin. If the board decides not to release Katsav, Rivlin can decide, or ask the justice minister for a new recommendation. According to Ayala Hasson’s broadcast on Channel 10, the justice minister said in a private conversation that she would recommend his release.
Shaked said she had not yet seen the case materials or looked at the file. She added that pardoning is an institution that is first and foremost that of the president. His decision requires only requires her enabling signature, which aims to check that the president is not committing a conflict of interests.
This, Shaked said, is how I’ve worked with the President’s recommendations up until now. I honored them and gave each of his decisions my enabling signature, and I will this time, too: I will support his every decision and give it my signature. The ball, therefore, is in the president’s court.
Not an easy decision, after the storm erupted with news of his possible release. Rivlin is a popular president. He is loved by everyone, and, if I may guess, mostly by women. He loves to be loved. His decision regarding an early release rate may certainly undermine this support. It seems that if there is some kind public consensus, it’s women against Katsav’s release.
So forgive me, my sisters, but despite my sympathy to your resolved and just position, I see no reason to oppose the shortening his sentence by a third. Not because of sympathy, not because of compassion. Simply because it seems to me that the man paid his debt by any measure. If there were any meaning to another year and a half in prison, if that time would pressure him into remorse, if there were any added value to his continuing to sit in prison, it would be a cause worth fighting for. None of this will happen. How did Katsav’s friend put it? This is a walking corpse.
What I can completely identify with is the victims’ fear that as soon as Katsav leaves prison, they will have to see and hear him in every possible media: press conferences, personal interviews, panels, and who knows, maybe he’ll become one day a commentator on a current affairs program. This phenomenon of media pouncing on a convicted felon and giving a platform to all that he says, is improper, and in this case is improper several times over.
This requires a mature and responsible joint decision from all the media that this man will be completely excluded. No interviews on holidays, no articles, no hosting TV shows. We can easily save the victims frustration by simply not cooperating with him.
It seems to me that this way, we’ll squeeze out Katsav’s punishment until the end.