Israeli police say they have searched the home of the president in connection with an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him.
Computers and documents were seized during the raid on Moshe Katsav‘s Jerusalem home on Monday, police said.
A former employee has accused the president of sexual harassment. No charges have been brought against him and he denies wrongdoing.
Police said they would question Mr Katsav on Wednesday.
Mr Katsav’s office said he would co-operate with the investigation.
“The president is interested in giving his full version and in proving the lies of the serious accusations,” the statement said.
Mr Katsav is a veteran member of the right-wing Likud, serving as transport minister in the late 1980s and in 1996 as minister of tourism and deputy prime minister.
He has held the office of president, a largely ceremonial role, since 2000.
***Update 9:50 am ***
Israel Insider, August 18:
Israel’s president is being dogged by allegations of sexual harassment in a spiraling scandal that has pushed the country’s war with Hezbollah off the front pages — well, almost. But it has given the war-weary nation something more titillating to consider, after weeks of discussing casualties from the fighting and mismanagement of the military campaign.
Five more women came forward this week to accuse the religiously traditional Moshe Katzav of acting in a highly non-presidential manner — or, rather, perhaps, acting in the traditions of certain American Presidents. The newspaper accounts, relying on anonymous complainants, went into considerable detail about Katzav’s sexual tastes and seduction techniques.
The first allegation surfaced in July when Israel’s Channel 2 TV reported that a former senior employee in the president’s office accused him of sexually harassing her. The woman has not been identified.
In a meeting with Katsav, she also threatened to disclose the number of an overseas bank account allegedly set up to collect money the president received in exchange for presidential pardons, the television report said. The employee demanded hush money, it added.
The Maariv newspaper reported in July that a second woman has since come forward with similar accusations.
“Katsav sexually harassed me,” the headline blared. The newspaper did not reveal her identity.
The president, whose decades-long political career had been unmarred by any whiff of scandal, insisted in a statement that all his dealings with female employees have been professional.
This week, however, the floodgates opened on accusations against Katzav. Haaretz reported Friday that no fewer than five more women had lodged sexual harassment complaints.
“The testimonies of the five women, both firsthand and indirect, indicate a pattern in which Katsav took advantage of his position to sexually harass them, turning from a boss with a pleasant manner into one who makes comments with sexual overtones, and then moves on to attempt sexual contact. The women said that when they refused his overtures, they encountered a cold and patronizing attitude to the point where they felt compelled to quit,” Haaretz reported.
Haaretz provided lurid testimony from a young woman identified only as B.:
“When I came to the minister’s office, they told me: ‘We’ll see if you get through the first 100 days’,” recalled B., who said Katsav sexually harassed her while she was working at his office during the time he served as a minister. “I didn’t understand. I was innocent. I didn’t know that they were hinting about what was going to happen. I didn’t know that the minister’s behavior is the best-kept secret in the system. The pattern was to take advantage and toss aside. Everyone knew and kept silent.”
B. said Katsav used to make inappropriate comments to her, and would call her up at home.
“When I came to the office, he heaped compliments on me,” she said. “I’m a pretty and well-dressed girl, and he started complimenting my appearance: ‘That hairstyle suits you,’ ‘You’re very pretty.’ There were also comments about my chest. It got progressively worse.”
Some comments were loaded with “sexual implications that could not be interpreted otherwise,” B. said. “He would tell me how at night he was having a good time with Gila, his wife, in bed, and was thinking about me. He would call me at home, and the conversations were not about security matters or politics. In the morning he would come in, pass by my desk, say, ‘Good morning, come in, come into my room. I couldn’t wait to see you.’ I would go into the room with work papers. I was still innocent. Everyone knew — it was the secret of the whole office.”
Later on, B. said, the harassment moved up a notch, and she quit in anger.
“At a certain stage he tried to touch me. It happened several times,” she said. “The moment I refused, he started excluding me at work. He would humiliate me, go to other secretaries who worked under me instead of turning to me. When he wanted to get me mad, he would ask me to send another girl into the room. Another time, when the whole office went on a trip, he would leave me in the office. The dirt started to get out, people gossiped. It was intolerable.”
A former senior Transportation Ministry official quoted by Haaretz said that when Katsav was transportation minister between 1988 and 1992, the office was rife with stories of harassment.
“He liked them skinny and young,” she said. “I remember an incident in which someone was wearing a thin shirt, and he sprayed water on her chest. The time has come to publicize it.”