“It sounds like the opening for a joke,” Walla reporter Avi Ashkenazi wrote Wednesday morning: “A former president, a former district judge, and a former banker meet at the parole board.” On Thursday, a riveted country will await the ruling of the parole board deliberating the future of those three prestigious sinners: Moshe Katsav, Dan Cohen, and Eti Alon, who were made to pay with their freedom for bringing shame on Israel’s public institutions.
The most renowned of the three, former president Katsav, is a special case on several levels. For one thing, his parole hearing earlier this year ended in a rejection, with the board pointing out that Katsav’s refusal to accept his guilt, much less express regret over his sexual harassment of female underlings, of which he was convicted, mean that he is not a proper candidate for rehabilitation.
But former presidents have friends in high places, and Katsav, who will turn 71 in December, appealed his rejection by the parole board, and the district court ruled that the board must reconsider his parole application. The court ruling was based on a new opinion submitted by the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority (PRA) saying Katsav could undergo rehabilitation treatment outside the prison walls. This new filing represents a 180 degree turn from the PRA’s original opinion, and many in Israel’s media have suggested the writing is on the wall: Katsav is going home, having served 4 years and 8 months of his 7-year sentence.
It should be noted that the PRA’s website states there is an essential correlation between the rehabilitation of prisoners and their ongoing psychological therapy in collaboration with the Prisons Authority. Presumably, accepting responsibility for one’s crimes must be the cornerstone of such therapy — how would such an acceptance be even possible when society gives the criminal a break and sends him home? What’s left for him to regret?
Former Judge Dan Cohen, 74, served on the board of the Israel Electric Company, and was convicted of accepting a bribe from Siemens AG, a German conglomerate considered the largest engineering company in Europe. Cohen accepted a plea bargain in 2013, of 6 years in prison and a fine of $1.57 million. Cohen, who is serving his term in the geriatric section of (white-collar) Ma’asiyahu Prison, has asked to be released after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
Finally, Eti Alon, the former banker, was convicted of embezzling $65 million from the customers of the Bank of Commerce, coupled with setting up 206 fictitious accounts (the entire bank had only 1,300 accounts) to which she awarded lavish loans. Most of this money was used to cover the illegal gambling debts of Alon’s brother, Ofer Maximov, to the underworld. Alon’s crimes led to the collapse of the Bank of Commerce, and she was sentenced to 17 years in prison. She was up for parole back in 2015, but the state prosecution objected to cutting off 2 years, arguing she had been in cahoots with criminal elements and to date had not paid the court’s fine of $1.3 million. In February Alon was rejected once more, but, according to one NRG report, this time the prosecution is willing to set her free.