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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not the modern Dreyfus

Nahum Barnea 
Not the modern Dreyfus

All the president's options lead to resignation
Published:  01.24.07, 20:54

Two top attorneys, David Libai and Zion Amir, sat in a small room packed to the gills with cameras and microphones on Tuesday afternoon while squirming about uncomfortably in their seats. Both are experienced in defending lost cases but never before had they defended such an embarrassing case.
The president will resign, if not today than tomorrow, if not tomorrow than the day after. His resignation, not his temporary suspension or any other smart way out, is what is required to save what is left of the presidential institution and bring the affair back to proportion. In so doing Moshe Katsav will be rendering a great service, perhaps his last, to Israeli society and its sanity. The country would be eternally grateful.
In the name of fairness, it should be noted that the decision to step down is by no means an easy one. The attorney general's announcement that he is considering indicting Katsav has placed national interests against the legitimate interests of Moshe Katsav as a suspect and as the accused.
His resignation strips him of his immunity. Any police officer can summon him for questioning whenever he feels like it. Remaining in office is his only asset if he wishes to negotiate some deal with the prosecution. One doesn't relinquish such assets easily.
Nonetheless, the insistence on temporary suspension exposes him to a great deal of mudslinging. There is no mercy in this story: Knesset members, journalists, comedians and satirists, will give him the full brunt of their big mouths.
The Knesset Committee, which he must turn to for approval for temporary absence, will not comply with his request before leveling harsh verbal abuse at him. Yet there is still a chance that the Knesset will launch an impeachment process against him, or that the Supreme Court will show him the way out.
 Not the modern Dreyfus
On Tuesday afternoon, when Katsav arrived at attorney David Libai's office at the courthouse in Tel Aviv, all the pros and cons regarding his resignation and temporary suspension were weighed. The discussion focused on tactics, not on strategy. It is clear to all those involved in defending the president that an indictment will be forthcoming.
 The hearing will allow him to gain time, perhaps even result in an easing of the charges, but they will not be dropped completely.
 Katsav says he is a victim of conspiracy. "I have not committed any of the things I have been attributed with." This is his public stance, and no less important, this is what his children are saying as well.
 It's difficult to see how this man, Moshe Katsav, can face the court and present another stance. People in his situation prefer being convicted by law and receiving harsh punishment rather than admitting guilt. Upon conviction, they can tell their families and the public that they suffered an injustice.
 "I am Dreyfus," Katsav says, drawing a parallel between Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French army officer who was unjustly accused and convicted of treason on anti-Semitic grounds. With this comparison Katsav, hopes someone the likes of Emile Zola will rise up and bring the truth of the case to light and pardon him just as Dreyfus was eventually exonerated, pardoned and rehabilitated.

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