Katzav: ‘I won’t re­sign’

Is­raeli pres­i­dent bats away at­tacks de­spite rape charges

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - FROM JEFF BARAK, JERUSALEM

IS­RAEL’S PRES­I­DENT, MOSHE Katzav, has an­grily brushed aside calls for his im­me­di­ate res­ig­na­tion fol­low­ing his in­dict­ment ear­lier this week on charges of rape, sex­ual ha­rass­ment and breach of trust.

In­stead, he launched an emo­tional tirade against the me­dia and Is­rael’s po­lice at a spe­cially con­vened press con­fer­ence at the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence in Jerusalem on Wed­nes­day night.

In­sist­ing on his in­no­cence, Pres­i­dent Katzav said: “When the truth comes out, cit­i­zens of Is­rael, you will be in shock.” Mr Katzav ac­cused the me­dia of McCarthy­ism and said the po­lice had been work­ing hand-in-hand with the press to en­sure his down­fall. He said he was the vic­tim of a brain­wash­ing cam­paign and a “me­dia lynch”.

But im­me­di­ately af­ter the pres­i­dent’s speech, Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert called on Mr Katzav to re­sign. Giv­ing the key­note ad­dress at the Her­zliya Con­fer­ence, Mr Olmert said Mr Katzav could no longer func­tion as pres­i­dent.

For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Livni has also called for Pres­i­dent Katzav’s res­ig­na­tion while 30 Knes­set mem­bers have signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing on the Knes­set House Com­mit­tee to be­gin pro­ceed­ings to re­move Pres­i­dent Katzav from of­fice.

At his press con­fer­ence, Mr Katzav pledged to re­sign im­me­di­ately if At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Me­nachem Mazuz for­mally in­dicted him. On Tues­day, Mr Mazuz an­nounced that he was minded to in­dict the pres­i­dent on a num­ber of charges, in­clud­ing rape. In the mean­time, Pres­i­dent Katzav’s lawyers have asked the Knes­set to grant Mr Katzav a tem­po­rary leave of ab­sence from the pres­i­dency. If this is granted, Knes­set Speaker Dalia Itzik will re­place him. She will con­tinue in her Knes­set role but also un­der­take the ex­ec­u­tive and cer­e­mo­nial du­ties of the pres­i­dent, such as the swear­ing-in of new judges and re­ceiv­ing new am­bas­sadors.

Elec­tions for a new pres­i­dent are sched­uled for May, when Mr Katzav’s seven-year term ends, but if he re­signs or is im­peached by the Knes­set (which would de­mand a spe­cial ma­jor­ity of 90 Knes­set mem­bers out of the 120-seat Knes­set), new elec­tions will take place 45 days af­ter Mr Katzav leaves of­fice. The pres­i­dent is elected by a se­cret vote of the Knes­set, so as to al­low politi­cians to vote ac­cord­ing to con­science and not the party whip.

Two politi­cians have al­ready de­clared their can­di­dacy for the pres­i­dency, the Likud’s Reuven Rivlin, a for­mer Knes­set speaker, and Labour’s Co­lette Avi­tal. Vice pre­mier Shi­mon Peres, who sur­pris­ingly lost out to Mr Katzav in 2000, has yet to an­nounce whether he in­tends to run again. If he de­cides not to, Ms Itzik is re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing stand­ing for pres­i­dent on the Kadima Party ticket.

Past opin­ion polls have shown that the 83-year-old Mr Peres would be a pop­u­lar choice with the pub­lic, but the vet­eran leader is wary of again los­ing out in a se­cret Knes­set vote.

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