Former President Moshe Katzav's brother says the former president will prove his innocence in court. He says the media "shed his blood" and that of his family. Moshe Katzav has always maintained his innocence, launching a blistering attack on the media before accepting a plea bargain his family says was forced upon him.
For months, increasingly severe allegations against Katzav were printed on the front-pages of the nation’s newspapers, with the identities of the accusers scrupulously obscured through the use of their first initials. The accusations culminated in claims of outright rape. In the end, however, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz offered Katzav a plea bargain that did not mention any of the major allegations, but sufficed with sexual harassment and its derivatives. Katzav's opponents were furious that although he signed the document, he still vocally claimed innocence.
Now, Katzav has backed out of the plea bargain, saying that the price of admitting to any crimes he did not commit is too high to pay for avoiding malicious headlines and the harassment of his family. He, his family and his lawyers say they are 100 percent sure they will clear his name in a court of law.
Army Radio’s Razi Barkai interviewed former President Moshe Katzav’s brother Lior Wednesday morning about the decision to back out of the plea bargain and take the battle to the courts:
Lior Katzav: Moshe Katzav claimed from the beginning, from the first day, that he did not do anything that breaks the law and no abhorrent actions -
Razi Barkai: When you say he didn’t engage in any criminal act, that includes a consensual relationship? Because you know that breaks the law as well? [Barkai explained at the start of his show that any relationship with a subordinate would have also been illegal, even if consensual –ed.]
Katzav: Razi, you didn’t let me finish. He did not engage in any activity that was illegal or even unethical at all. He is the victim of horrible slander that was perpetrated with the aim to hurt him and to hurt his family. He is the victim of blackmail attempts by former employees who were fired by him and seek revenge. Everyone who has examined the evidence over this past year - and this includes the Attorney General - has come to that conclusion.
Barkai: They did not come to that conclusion, Lior Katzav. They came to a different conclusion that there were criminal acts - albeit less severe than what has been called 'the draft indictment,' but your brother signed a document for the court admitting to these crimes!
Katzav: Razi, firstly, the Prosecution and the Attorney General's office wrote a precise answer to the Supreme Court - and part of this letter, unfortunately, has a gag order on it: that it is impossible to believe the versions of the complainants - that their versions were rife with contradictions and lies -
Barkai: Of some of the complainants!
Katzav: You are again interrupting me -
Barkai: I sometimes interrupt -
Katzav: I am prepared to answer all your questions, but you must enable me to say the truth -
Barkai: I will give you more than a minute and more than two minutes, but when you say that all the complainants lied - that is not correct.
Katzav: Razi, you didn't read [the letter from the Prosecution and AG's office]. I did read it. I, unlike you, read the letter and the letter is very descriptive, using the expression and the root letters: shin kuf reish [sheker - meaning "lie" in Hebrew -ed.] many times. It says explicitly that the accounts are contradictory, that the reliability of the complainants is dubious. It describes their lies, accounts that don't square with reality, that objective outside facts contradicted their versions of events, Razi.
When the Attorney General approached the President a year ago to reach a plea bargain, he didn't do him a favor. He didn't seek to make things easier for him. He didn't try to give him any break that he didn't deserve - he simply acted as an Attorney General is supposed to act after reviewing the evidence and seeing that there is not, in all of it, one shred of proof that is able to convict the President in any just and proper trial in a court of law.
Barkai: Let's say everything you just said to me is correct. That there were giant holes in the trustworthiness of the complainants and it was all slander, why was your brother, after all this, willing to admit to 1) indecent acts, 2) inappropriate behavior against A. from the Tourism Ministry and 3) admit to sexual harassment of L. from the President's House?
Katzav: I'll tell you something. In the plea bargain that was signed there were listed three acts that were so totally minor, so totally not serious. Things that you and everyone else does each day. What is listed there: a birthday kiss, a hug on the waist? These are things that Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch has declared, on more than one occasion, do not carry with them sexual connotations. These are acts that are less serious than those attributed to [Vice-Premier] Chaim Ramon [who was convicted of forcibly prolonging and intensifying what began as a social kiss by a female soldier on the day IDF soldiers Eldad Goldwasser and Ehud Regev were kidnapped -ed.] I am only quoting Dorit Beinisch, not giving you my own interpretation: that we are dealing with acts that are so minor that they don't carry with them anything.
But with time, Moshe Katzav decided he could not live with admitting to acts he did not do, even as minor as these, and he therefore did what he did yesterday [cancel the plea bargain -ed.]. Let me tell you something. Nine months ago, when they offered him the plea bargain - he did not want to sign it. We forced him to sign it in order to be done with this episode.
How much blood of his could they spill? How much could they dirty him? How much could they hurt him? Yesterday, when he said that they tore his flesh with iron combs he was not exaggerating. It is an unimaginable suffering to wake up every morning to new headlines in the papers trying to present you as a monster; people who didn't even read a single shred of evidence!
Barkai: But -
Katzav: They attacked him, slandered him - how long can one stand that? We thought, nine months ago, that he should just be done with this episode, that he should just admit to things he didn't even do to get a little bit of quiet for himself and for his family - for his wife and kids.
Barkai: OK - we will soon talk about how he regrets the agreement, but there are many people who don't see him as a monster, but get up in the morning and see four women - four separate women who did not know each other - if they met each other, it was on a very marginal, surface level - what, is it a conspiracy of women against the President of Israel?
Katzav: Razi, first of all I’m glad you are not still speaking about eight and nine and ten women.
Barkai: I am talking about three women whose names are A. and one whose name is L.
Katzav: 'Four women' is also incorrect. If we are speaking about the final draft indictment, we are speaking about A. from the President's House who says that he kissed her on her birthday. And she herself said more than once during the police investigation that she did not see in this kiss sexual harassment. "He did not sexually harass me" and "he did not harm me." This was a kiss like a father gives to his daughter on her birthday.
Barkai: Wait a second, where was the kiss? A fatherly kiss on her forehead?
Katzav: It was a kiss on the cheek, on a birthday. She herself says this explicitly in the official transcripts of her police testimony. And she says, also explicitly, that she did not see in this any aspect of sexual harassment. And the police, for her, decided that they did see in it sexual harassment. This is the A. who appears in the plea bargain, Razi.
Barkai: How did the drama unfold that led to yesterday's decision? Were you part of the deliberations over what to do together with your brother?
Katzav: Yes, of course.
Barkai: What did you advise him?
Katzav: From the very first moment when he signed the plea bargain - a minute afterward - he felt a great regret and a great pain that he was forced to admit to things he did not do. For all the nine months -
Barkai: He wasn't forced! Nobody forced him to sign.
Katzav: - to live. Razi, I will tell you, and I don't want to reveal too much, but he was forced and he was blackmailed to sign that plea bargain nine months ago. There will come a time to deal also with these things...
Barkai: Blackmailed by who? By his lawyer? You brought up a very serious matter about his attorneys.
Katzav: Think what you want to think. He was forced to sign this plea bargain and was then unable to live with it. He was trapped for nine months and the decision came to a head in the past few days and he talked it over with his family -
Barkai: If I am hearing you correctly Lior Katzav, you are saying in the name of your brother and family that you don't have faith in his lawyers?
Katzav: I am not talking about the lawyers. I have nothing but the greatest respect for all three of our lawyers. They are our trustworthy partners and all of them believe fully in my brother's innocence. Avigdor Feldman said yesterday, in an exceptional statement, that the lawyers all sifted through all the evidence and didn't manage to find even a single piece of evidence that will stand up in court. We are talking about more than 20,000 pages of material with not even one accusation that can convict Moshe Katzav. The lawyers know this and they advised him as well to cancel the plea bargain. Even the prosecution knows this - Shai Nitzan knows that legal proceedings will end in a complete vindication of Moshe Katzav.
Barkai: I understand you are worked up, but I have to ask you, how was the decision made? In a family meeting two days ago?
Katzav: Our family met two days ago and also yesterday and in the end he made the decision and is whole with it. And we are all at peace with it.
Barkai: How is Gila [Katzav] with the decision?
Katzav: Gila is happy with the decision. She has believed in Moshe and been by his side for 40 years and knows he is innocent. She supported him fully all the way. She is one of those who convinced him to cancel the plea bargain and fight for his innocence.
Barkai: Because you know, there are people, not only in the feminist movements, who see in the actions of a betrayed woman, coming with him to court and standing by his side as shameful. She is erasing herself. What do you think of these claims?
Katzav: Look at who the women in these organizations are – people who have not succeeded in having a family. Women who married and divorced and married and divorced again. They are seeking to destroy a family. These are the people who are going to rebuke us? Teach us ethics? Gila and Moshe are true partners. They love one another, honor one another and are full partners. They go together and are full partners in a relationship. Look what is going on here. Look at the hatred we face. They attack us every day, without any mercy. Where does this hatred come from?
Barkai: This battle has taken almost two years. Where does all the money for this battle come from?
Katzav: Razi, a man that believes in his innocence – what choice does he have other than to fight for it? We are embarking on a battle to reveal the truth. We in the family have enlisted to help out however we can. We gave what anyone would give to prove their innocence. Moshe Katzav will walk out innocent.
Barkai: When A. will take the stand and say: look me in the eyes – you slept with me.
Katzav: She is unable to say a thing that never occurred. And if she does, we will prove it is a lie with unequivocal evidence. We still have plenty evidence that we have not revealed. But on that day, it will become clear to everyone.
For ten months they spilled his blood in the media, with articles and publicists – without viewing even one shred of proof. They allowed themselves to destroy him. Moshe Katzav has the right to defend himself in a court of law. This trial - if there is a trial, the Attorney General should really just dismiss the file altogether – then all will be proven.
Barkai: And if it gets to trial?
Katzav: Then we expect the trial to be carried out properly and justly, like any other citizen of the State of Israel.