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Katzav’s Last Stand

Moshe Katzav is hurting — bad. The former president of Israel stands charged with several counts of rape. The case is far from opened-and-shut: The credibility of key witnesses has been repeatedly undermined. After Katzav withdrew from a plea bargain agreement, it took the Attorney General the better part of a year to feel confident enough to issue an indictment. Yet Katzav clearly sees himself heading for jail for a crime he insists he did not commit.

To try and save himself, Katzav announced a primetime press conference. He told reporters there would be “new developments” announced. Instead, he undertook what was surely the most spectacular self-immolation by a major politician on a public stage in recent history.

His handlers told us he would be speaking for fifteen minutes, twenty tops. Instead, he stood and spoke for a full two and a half hours. He ranted, ranted, ranted about how the whole country was against him — the journalists, the police, the judges, the State Prosecutor’s office. When, about an hour into the thing, he started attacking journalists by name, they started revolting. Journalists were shouting him down. Some of them started interviewing others, right there in the audience, as Katzav kept on talking. Some of them walked out in protest. TV and radio cut to their normal programming. And he kept talking. And no, he did not say anything new.

This morning, his attorney, Avigdor Feldman, insists the press conference will not affect his case. But the point of the press conference was to help his case, among judges, the general public, anyone who could come to his defense. Instead he made such a fool of himself that most of the commentators ended up just feeling sorry for the guy.



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