Conflict & Justice

Disgraced ex-Israeli president still says he's innocent


The former president has made his case. He'll serve seven years.



Three weeks before reporting to jail to begin serving his seven-year sentence for multiple counts of rape, a pugnacious, unrepentant Moshe Katzav, Israel’s disgraced former president, has decided once more to try to get his version of the story on the record.

He continues to mystify. He is unable to explain why he rejected a controversial plea bargain in 2008, through which he would have avoided any jail time. “I don’t have a line. I don’t have a strategy,” he said.

“I’m at peace with that decision. I could not have lived with the knowledge that I’d have to confess to a crime I did not commit. I respect the court, but it has erred. When I heard the sentence, I felt the world had collapsed. That the lie had won.”

Read more: Katzav's rape charge upheld

At a later point in the meandering, otherworldly interview, recorded by the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, Katzav addressed the Almighty directly: “Why did You send me to the presidency if it was only to bring upon me this suffering?”

Katzav was convicted of raping two of his secretaries. He has lost his last appeal. Nevertheless, he steadfastly maintained his innocence, despite a prohibitive cost: he is barred from enjoying the usual third off his jail term for good behavior as long as he maintains his innocence. 

Sounding like an improbable spawn of Silvio Berlusconi and Richard Nixon, Katzav said: “I wasn’t in the places that they say I was in. I have evidence and witnesses. I wasn’t there.”

The Supreme Court justices, however, determined that he falsified his presidential schedule books. Of them, he said: “They’ve sent me to the executioner. They’ve spilled my blood, but I intend to fight for my good name until my very last drop of blood. Until I have no more strength.”

He claimed never to have more than “innocently kissed” a secretary. In the interviews released today, Katzav asserted he was never anything "more than a warm boss."

“If I upset anyone, of course I regret it,” he said. “No one ever told me she was upset. If they had said anything to me, I would have apologized on the spot and I would have seen if she was upset. I never saw a downturned face or any anger. They kept on working for me.”