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Calls for Katzav to Quit - Even Before Indictment Decision

Despite Knesset attempts to begin impeachment proceedings against him, President Katzav is apparently planning not to resign, but to request to suspend himself from his duties.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/24/2007, 2:28 PM / Last Update: 1/24/2007, 9:54 AM

His lawyers have requested that Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Knesset House Committee allow him to declare a self-suspension, given that he is "temporarily incapable" of carrying out his duties. Most Knesset Members are in favor of his all-out resignation.

Two months ago, President Katzav promised to leave office if a decision would be made to indict him. No such decision has been made, yet many MKs and journalists are demanding his resignation now - three full months before an official hearing regarding a possible indictment is even held.

Contrary to many press reports, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced Tuesday not that he had decided to indict the President, but that he is considering doing so, pending a preliminary hearing.

Katzav's attorney, former MK David Libai, implied at a short press conference Tuesday night why there was no need for Katzav to resign or suspend himself at present. In similar situations, Libai explained, the Attorney General might announce that he had decided to indict a person, pending a hearing. "Here, however, Mazuz acted fairly," Libai said, "in that he wrote that he is 'considering' serving an indictment, pending a hearing."

The difference between "deciding" and "considering" is apparently the difference between Katzav remaining in office or not. Katzav informed the Supreme Court two months ago, via Atty. Libai, that if Mazuz decides to indict him, contingent upon a hearing, he would suspend himself. Libai also told the Court, in Katzav's name, that the President would resign if an indictment is actually decided upon. The Supreme Court decision based on the above was validated as an official Court ruling.

Based on the above, it appears clear that Katzav need not suspend himself at this point - as no decision has been made to indict him.

This has not stopped a wave of calls for Katzav's resignation, however. Knesset Members from left and right say he should resign or suspend himself immediately.

Nearly 30 MKs have signed a petition calling for even more drastic action; they say that if Katzav does not announce his resignation this evening, they will begin impeachment hearings as early as tomorrow. Their signatures are more than the 20 that are required to demand the convening of the appropriate Knesset committee.

Actual impeachment does not appear likely, however, as the consent of 90 MKs is necessary for such a move.

With the threat of impeachment proceedings hanging over his head, with Mazuz's decision not to close the case at this point, and while continuing to protest his complete innocence, Katzav plans to convene a press conference this evening (Wednesday) to announce his plans.

Both Libai and Tzion Amir, another attorney representing the President, said that the defense has new information and evidence in the case that it plans to present to Mazuz for the hearing. "I note with satisfaction," Libai said, "that Mazuz wrote clearly that he is anxious to hear our side, and that he is open to changing his mind."

Speaking today with Arutz-7, Amir said that the new evidence portrays "in a very problematic light" the behavior of the four complainants against Katzav.

"We're not hinting anything," Amir said. "The issues are very clear, and are known to the investigators... The complainants are very problematic from a judicial point of view and according to laws known to the Supreme Court. There is no outside support for their testimony, and it is very difficult legally to accept their testimony... The feeling that this case is filled with holes is a common perception, and even perhaps among the prosecutors."

When asked if he claims that the four female witnesses against the President are lying, Libai responded, "The public has been flooded with much information for months. The President has been judged in absentia, with no counter defense. What does the public know about the four witnesses? Their names are being withheld. No one knows their identities. No one has done an investigative piece on them. Who are these people? We have information and evidence that we will present to the attorney general. We have presented him with some information, and we have new evidence to present at the preliminary hearing."

Libai said that among the complainants are "former employees who remembered only after many years to testify against him; after they were fired; after they wanted to return to work with the President but were turned down; after they told others that they want to take vengeance against him; after they denied that they were sexually harassed by him; and after they said many words of praise and affection for him."

Amir said he advised Katzav not to resign at this time, based on the commitment he gave the Supreme Court two months ago. "Based on what I know of the President, and in light of how he has acted in recent months, there appears to be no choice that he will not take our advice on this matter," the lawyer said.

Asked if he feels that Katzav will be totally cleared of any wrongdoing, Amir said he could not say, "but we have a strong case to wage a world war to prove the President's claims regarding a cruel and malevolent libel against him [to unseat him]."

Libai also noted "with satisfaction that the Attorney General has dropped all charges regarding pardons that he issued and suspicions of eavesdropping on employees."