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PRESIDENCY UNDER FIRE

Public Debate Underway After President Moshe Katsav Accused Of Rape & Sexual Misconduct

Katsav Lawyers Say They Have New Evidence That May Persuade Attorney General To Drop Charges

President Katzav

Should Israel abolish the mainly ceremonial position of President after the incumbent Moshe Katsav has been accused of rape and other sexual misconduct as well as obstructing justice? This is now a burning issue in the midst of the scandal that has shocked the country. IsraCast has drawn on numerous sources in this report on President Moshe Katsav - the position and the man.

After a Knesset committee approved his request to be  'temporarily incapacitated', Moshe Katsav and his wife Gila spent the weekend at their private home in Kiryat Malachi. However, a close friend says Katsav may return to his official residency in Jerusalem later this week. In his home town, some of his neighbors welcomed him warmly. They agreed with Katsav that he has been a victim of a media witch-hunt and is innocent of the allegations made by four former female employees.

However, other residents called Katsav a disgrace to their town and the country. Katsav lawyers say will need several months to study all the evidence that Attorney General Mazuz will make available to them before Mazuz gives them a pre-indictment hearing. This is Israeli law for public officials before they are indicted. 

The lawyers say they have new information that will cast the affair in a new light and even persuade the Attorney General to drop the charges. 

Presidency in Israel

President of the State of Israel is the Head of State of Israel, but has a largely ceremonial, figurehead role with real power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister of Israel .The current President is Moshe Katsav.

Election

The President is elected by an absolute majority by the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). As of the third round of voting, if no candidate receives an absolute majority, a simple majority is enough. A president's full term is seven years. A president cannot be re-elected to a second term. Until recently, the president was elected for a five-year term, and was allowed to serve up to two terms in office.Any Israeli citizen who is a resident of the State is eligible to be a presidential candidate. The office falls vacant upon resignation or upon the decision of three-quarters of the Knesset to impeach the president on grounds of misconduct or incapacity. Presidential tenure is not keyed to that of the Knesset in order to assure continuity in government and the nonpartisan character of the office. There is no vice president in the Israeli governmental system. When the president is temporarily incapacitated or the office falls vacant, the speaker of the Knesset may become acting president.For more information see Basic Law: The President of the State .

Presidential powers and roles

The president's powers are rather limited in scope compared to heads of state in other countries. The president:

  • Signs every law (except those that pertain to the president's powers).
  • Chooses a member of the Knesset to form the government in consultation with the parties making up the body.
  • Confirms diplomats and receives foreign diplomats. Signs treaties, approved by the Knesset, with foreign countries.
  • Appoints judges to the Supreme Court (upon advice of the Judicial Appointments Committee).
  • Appoints the governor of the Bank of Israel and other bureaucrats (upon advice of the Prime Minister).
  • Furthermore, the president has the authority to pardon criminals and commute sentences.

Presidential powers are usually exercised based on the recommendation of appropriate government ministers.Although the president's role is non-political, Israeli heads of state perform important moral , ceremonial , and educational functions. Israeli Presidents also play a part in the formation of the cabinet, or government. They are required to consult leaders of all political parties in the Knesset and to designate a member of the legislature to organize a cabinet. If the member so appointed fails, other political parties commanding a plurality in the Knesset may submit their own nominee. The figure called upon to form a cabinet is invariably the leader of the most influential political party or bloc in the Knesset.

List of Israeli Presidents

All Israeli presidents from Yitzhak Ben-Zvi to Ezer Weizman were members of, or associated with, the Labor Party and its predecessors, and all have been considered politically moderate. Moshe Katsav is the first Likud president. These tendencies were especially significant in the April 1978 election of Labor's Yitzhak Navon , following the inability of the governing Likud coalition to elect its candidate to the presidency. Israeli observers believed that, in counterbalance to Prime Minister Begin's polarizing leadership, Navon, the country's first president of Sephardi origin, provided Israel with unifying symbolic leadership at a time of great political controversy and upheaval. In 1983 Navon decided to re-enter Labor politics after five years of nonpartisan service as president, and Chaim Herzog (previously head of military intelligence and ambassador to the United Nations ) succeeded him as Israel's sixth president. Likud's Moshe Katsav's victory over Labor's Shimon Peres in 2000 was an upset. In 1952 the presidency was offered to Albert Einstein who declined.

 

 

David Essing

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