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Monday, January 22, 2007

Katsav compares himself to Dreyfus

The comparison is not quite apt. Is Mr. Katsav suggesting that the Israel Police are anti-Semitic?
Dreyfus was French, but nonetheless it appears that he managed to keep his fly zipped.  
Katsav compares himself to Dreyfus

President Moshe Katsav has drawn a parallel between himself, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the French army officer who more than a century ago was unjustly accused and convicted of treason; and the victims of the decade long McCarthy witch hunt beginning in the late 1940s, for suspected Communists and Communist sympathizers.

Katsav, who in recent weeks, has with rare exceptions refrained from talking to reporters and has permitted only photo opportunities of events at Beit Hanassi, looked more relaxed than he has in a long time as he waited on Monday for the first batch of 2007's new foreign diplomats to present their credentials.

Although it is not customary for reporters to ask questions at these ceremonies unless the new ambassador happens to be the envoy of the United States, Russia, Egypt or Jordan, The Jerusalem Post reporter, who has seen Katsav in much tenser moods since reports of his alleged sexual improprieties were made public several months ago, could not resist asking him how he felt. - especially in the light of fresh rumors that the Attorney General would recommend that he be indicted.

"Just as Joe McCarthy was resurrected in Israel," replied Katsav, "there will also be a resurrection of Emile Zola."

From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted a relentless witch hunt against thousands of Americans, mostly government employees, but also many public figures, whom he accused of Communist activities such as espionage, or at the very least being Communist sympathizers. The targets of his rabid accusations were often innocent, but his vicious attacks on them were taken as gospel. People lost jobs. Careers and lives were ruined and dozens of Americans were wrongfully imprisoned.

Were it not for the justice seeking writer Emile Zola, the truth behind the Dreyfus case might never have come to light. Zola wrote an inflammatory open letter to French President Felix Faure that was published in the inaugural January 13, 1898 issue of L'Aurore (The Dawn), in which he deliberately made a series of grave accusations with the intention of being prosecuted for libel. The ploy was successful, and in this way, Zola was able to dredge up all the distortions in the Dreyfus case in his own case. Dreyfus was eventually exonerated, pardoned, rehabilitated and promoted.

Katsav who has consistently proclaimed his innocence and has asked the Israeli media to rely on the due judicial process before taking on the role of judge and jury and finding him guilty, sees himself as the latter day victim of a vindictive witch hunt, and is convinced that someone will come forward and rescue him from the abyss of infamy and possible incarceration.

His body language and facial expressions suggested that he knew something that the media representatives clustered in the reception hall did not know.

Mostly there were still photographers and TV cameramen. The majority of reporters who congregated at Beit Hanassi at every opportunity in the first month or two after the allegations against Katsav surfaced have come to the conclusion that it's a waste of time trying to elicit a statement out of the beleaguered president.

Katsav received the credentials of four ambassadors - two of them resident and two of them non-resident. Two of the four were also women, confirming the increasingly important role that women are playing in international diplomacy.

The four new envoys were Marina Josefina Fronza dos Reis Carvalho of Portugal; Namik Tan of Turkey; Umar M. Lubuulwa of Uganda; and Aino Lepik von Wiren of Estonia.

With the exception of Tan, with whom he spent more than half an hour in closed door discussions, Katsav cut his private sessions with the other ambassadors short.

With Carcalho, he discussed European Union policy and the need for Portugal and Israel to have more top level discussions. There has been a lapse of several years, he reminded her since anyone from the highest echelons of the Portuguese government has visited Israel.

With Tan, who was accompanied by a large retinue that included several female diplomats, Katsav reminisced about his state visit to Turkey and Tan in turn spoke of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's highly successful visit to Israel and the strong ties that exist between the two countries as further evidenced by the upcoming meeting in Davos of the foreign ministers of both countries, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's scheduled visit to Ankara in February. Katsav and Tan also reviewed the general situation in the Middle East and spoke about the need for stability and unity in Iraq. They also discussed Turkey's progress in its desire to join the European Union.

Lubuulwa who came attired in his country's national dress, is a non-resident ambassador stationed in Cairo. He brought greetings from President Yoweri Museven who met with Katsav when he visited Israel four years ago. Katsav said that he would like to see more cooperation between the two countries and was assured by Lubuulwa that this was his own aim. The Ugandan ambassador said that he would pay frequent visits to Israel, not only to talk to Mashav, the Foreign Ministry's international aid agency, which helped Uganda to develop a highly successful fishing industry, but also to the Israeli business community with a view to developing interest in investments in Uganda.

Von Wiren, will remain in Tallin, the Estonian capital, where like her predecessor, she will be not only non-resident ambassador to Israel, but also the legal counsel to the Estonian Foreign Ministry. She told Katsav that as a result of his visit to her country, a corner stone had been laid for a new synagogue, the completion of which will soon be celebrated with a state ceremony. The visit had been a turning point in relations between Estonia and Israel, she said, and she looked forward to advancing trade and other economic relations.

At the conclusion of the presentations of letters of credence, Katsav, accompanied by senior aides, went out into the grounds of Beit Hanassi to thank the police band, looking very smart in their tailored winter uniforms and the IDF Honor Guard for their services. On two previous occasions in which he accepted credentials, he waited for media personnel to disappear before venturing outside. This time, their presence did not bother him. Before taking his leave of the soldiers, Katsav bowed to them, then turned on his heel and strode back into the building.

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