Though the President has claimed innocence ever since the allegations of sexual harassment against him first arose shortly before the summer war with Hizbullah, he has never publicly explained his side of the events. In tonight's dramatic speech, he went further than ever before in doing so.
Particularly noteworthy was his scathing attack against the media, addressing many minutes of his remarks directly to the reporters sitting in front of him.
In addition, he essentially accused Attorney General Menachem Mazuz of lying and double-crossing him. Katzav said that at one point, he and Mazuz held a secret meeting, yet it and its contents were leaked to the media. The President said he called Mazuz to consult with him, and Mazuz said he would neither confirm nor deny the reports. Katzav followed suit, saying publicly that he would neither confirm nor deny - and the next day he heard Mazuz submit a public statement in the Knesset confirming the meeting and its leaked contents.
The headlines blared that the Attorney General contradicted the President's public statement. "He did the opposite of what he had told me on the phone the day before! What was I to do? ... I decided to continue to practice self-restraint and not embarrass Mazuz - but, I admit, it was not only for that reason; I continued to remain silent so that I would not be accused of interfering with the investigation."
Click here (top link) to view the speech.
Excerpts from the speech:
Over the past six months and more, my family and I have faced a poisonous and terrible campaign, with deception and lies reaching every home, trampling me.
Yet despite the humiliation and pressures upon me, for the past six months I respected the law and refrained from responding, in order not to interfere with the investigation... As always in my career, now too, I do not intend to lower my head - I will struggle until the end; I will wage even a world war, until my soul gives out, to cleanse my stained name.
My wife Gila [voice breaks] is standing by my side, and everyone will soon see the truth.
Citizens of Israel, don't believe the lies that you have heard. I am sure that you too, and Jews all over the world, feel the humiliation....
For the past six months, you have heard the brainwashing from the media. You have heard every day for six months details of the terrible acts of the president of Israel, hair-raising stories as if they are facts. You have seen irresponsible commentators standing and explaining, without fulfilling their basic responsibility of checking the most basic things. You therefore had no choice but to be influenced by them; you couldn't think otherwise.
I know no one else who could have survived this period, but I did - [knocking on table] - because I know the truth. In Israel 2007, it seems there is no need in this for proofs or for evidence; it's enough just to hear one side; my fate was decreed even before I could say one word. Not one of you [reporters] has seen one shred of evidence against me. There is no evidence against me.
But you in the press did not allow the facts to bother you. You did not stop for a second to ask yourselves if maybe the accusations are not true. Not one of you asked questions; not one of you - not one radio or TV or newspaper - did an investigative piece to see if it's true. You transgressed all journalist ethics!
I know what bothered you - that six years ago I was elected President [defeating Shimon Peres]. You wrote at the time that it was the end of Zionism, etc. I should be ashamed of myself? You should be ashamed of yourselves for writing such things about a democratic vote in the legislature!
---At this point, a Channel Two news anchor interrupted, and Katzav responded furiously:
You have talked for six months, and now it's my turn! No, you won't talk here! If you don't like it, you can get out! I was silent for six months, and now you don't want to hear the truth! Channel Two - yes, Channel Two, the same station that has been spilling my blood for six months! The same Channel Two that set an interview with the President of Israel for a specific day, and then just a day before the interview, decided to cancel it - and why? Because it decided that Muhammad Dahlan was more important to them than the President of Israel - that's the same Channel Two that doesn’t like to hear the difficult things I am accusing them of now.
Yes, it's the same media of which one journalist wrote that when I was elected President, he felt as bad as he felt the day that Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was murdered. Can you understand this comparison, citizens of Israel? If this does not sully the memory of Yitzchak Rabin, then what does? ...
When the truth comes out, citizens of Israel, you will be hit by shock. I wouldn’t take a chance on saying this so clearly if I wasn't so confident of the truth that you do not know.
I have been in public service for over 35 years; I have never hurt a single man or woman, my hands were clean, even when my opponents did all they could to besmirch me.
I saw myself as a symbol of all those who do not belong to the elitist, ego-swollen clique of those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths, who see themselves as the only ones worthy of representing the public!
For years, the press looked all over the place for something with which to besmirch me, but thank G-d, they found nothing. They went as far back as my 2nd grade school! But they found zero, they failed; they found nothing. I cannot understand where this hatred comes from, this urge to devour, that takes over the sense of truth and justice.
To my great sorrow, I was unable to stop the urge for vengeance and anger by those who worked with me for many years - and they waited for the right time to take vengeance.
I never thought that those who were fired by me or who didn't get what they wanted from me would accuse me of acts that are so far from me, from my tradition, from my way of life, and from how I educate my children. I did not do one of the acts of which I am accused.
I am proud of my family for standing by me at this difficult hour. But they are a normal family, and not made of iron.
I promise you, citizens of Israel, that it will never be listed in history that the 8th president is guilty of these crimes.
I admit that I would like to resign now; you have succeeded in taking away the joy of serving in this honorable position. It would be easy for me to quit. I am tired of this witch hunt. But the alternative is to surrender. I refuse to give in to blackmail and lies.
The police set itself a target of convicting a President of the State - yes, this is true. They did this because the police knew it would be popular in the eyes of the media.
Not one of you - no journalists, no politicians, not even my lawyers - have seen the evidence. I know the truth. The evidence is on my side, the truth is on my side.
If the Attorney General decides to indict me - and he has not yet decided to do so; he wrote that he is open to any decision. But if he decides to do so, I affirm again that I will resign immediately, as I said in court on Nov 27.
I also said that if he says that he is considering an indictment, I will suspend myself - and that's what I did today in a letter to the Knesset...
But I ask you what should a man do if he knows he's clean, the Attorney General has not decided, and it's all a libel - should he give up and quit just because of a media lynch? No. I will not cooperate with anyone who wants to execute someone without a trial. You want to execute someone without a trial - do so; I will not cooperate.
McCarthyism has been revived here in Israel. And one of the worst dangers is the cooperation between the police and media. In any normal country, the media are the last line of defense for a citizen who demands simple justice and basic civil rights. When the police persecute people in a totalitarian country, the media rises to protect him. But here the media and the police work together, leak to each other - and the civil rights of the citizens are trampled. Where are the bleeding hearts? Why don’t they raise their voice against this injustice?
I started this whole story last July by inviting on my own volition the Attorney General, without any lawyer or anything else - because I knew I had done nothing wrong. I went to complain about an attempt to blackmail me. Would a normal person who did something wrong go to the Attorney General and say he is being blackmailed?!
I advised him to place a gag order, so there could be a fair investigation. But this was not done for even one minute - and there were leaks all the time. There were leaks from the prosecution and from the police and from everywhere - just one side didn't leak, and that was me - the President of Israel, Moshe Katzav.
Only Gila and I knew of the meeting with Mazuz, yet within a short time, it was leaked to the press, including the contents of the meeting. I called Mazuz, and told him that the meeting had been leaked. He said he would not confirm or deny - and I did the same. And then I find that Mazuz releases an official statement confirming the meeting - the opposite of what he told me the day before. And then editorials appeared accusing me of lying, and calling, "Moshe Katzav, tell the truth!"
Ladies and gentlemen, no charge has ever been filed against me in the police! Not from 12 women, and not from one!
The police actively and ravenously sought out dozens of women to see if they would accuse me of something. They went back to all the women I had ever worked with in the past 30 years. One non-right-wing female MK said that her friend was summoned and asked by the police if she had ever been raped by the president!
Out of dozens that were investigated, three of them raised the worst charges. But those three wanted to work here - and I didn't think they were worthy of doing so. They wanted the prestige of working with the President, but I had worked with them in the past and knew that they weren't appropriate. All three of them wanted to work here!
And they never filed any complaint against me with the police - but when the police came to them, they saw it as a chance to get back at me. One of them was the head of an office when I was a minister, and I didn't want her to work here. Another was the one who tried to blackmail me, and when the police asked her about it, she used a disgraceful defense, saying, "He's complaining against me? I'll get him back! I'll accuse him of rape!"
We have evidence against two of them that they said outright they wanted to get me back and that they would take vengeance on me.
Regarding eight women about whom the police leaked to you - I was not even interrogated about sexual harassment regarding them.
One of them tried to spread terrible rumors about me - about an illegitimate child- yes, that's what she said - and about foreign accounts, and wiretapping my employees, and money for pardons, and affairs with women. But you know how sensitive I always was to the media throughout my career, and they knew that as well, and they knew it would be easy to malign me.
I tell you now: Ten thousand pardon requests passed through my office, and if you can find even one that I did not handle responsibly, I will resign right now.
Against the Police
As early as last October, the police announced that they could open a case against me - but the investigation has lasted another four months!
The police constantly leaked information, encouraged the media to spill my blood. The press campaign was orchestrated from the first minute.
Against the advice of my lawyers, I told them to transfer to the police all the evidence in my possession. They told me not to, so as not to divulge our defense tactics. But I said that I trust the police, and I forced them to transfer the information to make it easier for the police to reach the truth. What did the police do? Everything they could to tear down the testimonies that could have been used in my favor.
The legal counsel of the President's House - she was a former Lt.-Col. in the army, and the head of an IDF Military Court - has been lying sick for four months because of the humiliating police investigation! I cannot agree to such standards! And she says that they looked only to incriminate the president.
Similarly, the Director of the President's House, Moshe Goral, was hospitalized after a humiliating 11-hour investigation that took place even when he was sick.
There was a woman who wrote to me who said, "You don't know me, but eight years ago you fired me, and I know who the woman is who is accusing you - and I know that she's lying. I talked to her, and I know the truth." We gave the letter to the police and the Prosecution, and what do the police say to her? "We are following you with a magnifying glass, and we will get into your underwear, so watch out." - A hareidi woman with three children! This is how the police talks to a woman who wants to tell the truth?! They threaten her in this way? Is this a democratic state? Are these the standards we want to have here in our country?!
Another witness was told by the police to "watch out for your family." What right do they have to act this way?
I have great faith in the Israel Police, and I don't want to harm it, but these faults must be revealed. And witnesses must also be protected, even if they don't follow the direction set by the police. The police set a goal of convicting the President of the country, because they knew the media would like it.
This media lynch even influenced those who make the decisions. Why did Attorney General Mazuz have to say as early as October to announce that he had "doubts" about my innocence? What made him say that so many months ago, before all the material was ready? He could have been silent and said he's waiting for the end of the investigation - but no. He was widely quoted about how he doubts my story.
Isn't it obvious that such a statement would influence the investigators? If the Attorney General doesn't believe the president, then why should we? It also influenced everyone else, including the witnesses. After all, the Attorney General already set the tone!
At one point, the police wanted some evidence from my house - and they came with search warrants and orders. Why couldn't they just come and take what they wanted? Would someone have dared to stop them? But this was just another method of the police to humiliate me and harass me and report to the media that they had "raided the President's Residence."
Those who accused me of sexual harassment wanted just to harass me, and to defend themselves from charges of blackmail. A woman who is harassed doesn't bring the harasser gifts, or write him notes of appreciation, or repeatedly try to come back and work with him, or call the harasser from New York at 3 AM to wish him a happy birthday.
The whole case against me is not supported by any concrete evidence. As High Court Justice Dalia Dorner said, 'I cannot believe that someone has to prove his innocence!' Well, I will prove my innocence.
And those of you reporters who preach at me - I have succeeded in maintaining my marriage for 37 years. Many of you [reporters] who preach at me have not succeeded in maintaining your family life. I hope that my children and grandchildren have the same marriage relationship, and they wish upon themselves, that Gila and I have...
"O G-d, save me from the evil man, preserve me from the violent man, who devises evil in their hearts and stir up wars every day. They have sharpened their tongues like a snake... The proud have hidden a snare for me." (Psalm 140)
Thank you very much.