Saturday, January 27

The President of Israel and his Accusations

This was an incredible week! The Attorney-General of Israel is weighing the indictment of President Moshe Katzav for rape and sexual harassment. All this is proceeding in the back drop of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Iranian nuclear threat in the Middle East. Those who watched President Katzav’s performance on the podium of the presidential residence must have been left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is empathy for the embattled president (who is still innocent as he has not been charged with any crime), and disgust over the deep accusations weighing against him. It does not matter how one views Katzav’s predicament, it is incumbent on him to resign and clear his name. The fact that he remains in office even though the Knesset had not voted for his removal from the presidency but rather for temporary suspension of his presidential duties makes the presidential office in Israel a joke!

The president is the product of the loutish Likud Party of the 1980s and 1990’s. Who remembers the rowdy Likud Central Committee behaviour of those days during Likud Conferences? The various camps were in evidence then – the David Levy Camp, Shamir Camp and the Ariel Sharon Camp with loutish competition between the camps for taking over the Likud. The violence between the various camps and the throwing of chairs at one another was part of Likud culture.

Naturally, it is the strongest camp that wins and when it came to presidential elections in 2000, the Likud put up Moshe Katzav as their candidate for president against Shimon Peres and he won.

Many people saw Katzav’s victory as a success and a ray of hope for those immigrants from Arab Countries who lived in squalor ridden immigration camps in various parts of the country. At last, “one of their’s” had reached the top of the mountain – the presidency!

As so often happens to those who reach the top, they become victims of their own high positions. They see themselves almost unaccountable to the nation that they represent and above the law. After all, even though the Israeli president occupies a ceremonial position without any real power, he does represent the country on international and national occasions. He is seen as the representative of all Israel’s citizens. Surely, this is a very great responsibility! It seems that what is forbidden to the Israeli citizen by law is allowed to the Israeli president! This is evident by the amount of complaints of many women who were under his employ. They came out of the cupboard and went to the police making statements that he had raped one of them and harassed the others sexually. Surely these accusations are serious enough to warrant the president’s resignation so that he could clear his name from these accusations.

What was Katzav’s reaction? He made a horrendous speech or harangue whereby he accused the Israeli establishment – the attorney-general, the police, and press “with whom the police formed a partnership” to get rid of him. He also blamed the so-called elitist politicians who were not from the same humble mould from where he came for his predicament. He of course is as innocent as driven snow. He maintained that if he would resign that would be tantamount to admission of guilt. Apart from that, he had not been indicted of any crime to date.

If the average citizen was accused of the crimes that Katzav perpetrated, he would be placed under arrest and the chances of bail would be minimal. However, the president is still receiving presidential privileges even though his duties have been temporary suspended. This is ridiculous! The Knesset behaved irresponsibly in their decision. This is not surprising as many Knesset members are also involved in some irregularities with the law. Potential law breakers as well as law makers (which in Israel have become synonymous) these days cannot be expected to vote unanimously for Katzav’s dismissal from the presidency. Perhaps it is a matter of people living in glass houses should not throw stones!

In this situation, is it not surprising that the reaction by Palestinian leaders is one of cynicism toward the Israeli leadership?

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made his first comment on the
Affair during a speech at a conference in Gaza City:
"You can imagine an entity, whose leadership commits adultery and
takes bribes and is dissolving. Would such a rapist leadership be able to
dominate or control this nation and this proud people? Absolutely not,"
Haniyeh said.

Even if Israel would not have been burdened with the Katzav Affair it would have had made no difference in the Hamas attitude to Israel.

The Katzav problem is a symptom of the sickness within the Israel leadership. The cases of corruption that are coming out of the cupboard compounded by the Income Tax corruption scandal is further proof that Israel is becoming a member of an increasing list of corrupt banana republics. Even in sport, the fixing of winning lists of soccer matches for cartels to make money has become widespread! This being the case, the movement towards a peaceful and just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict will recede further onto the political backburner. Corruption in Israel changes its priorities which could spell danger to its future in the Middle East.

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