President Katsav Escapes Impeachment Over Likely Rape Charges

Four of 25 Knesset House Committee members vote against, with the rest absent or abstaining.

The impeachment process against President Moshe Katsav was thwarted Wednesday when only seven of the 25 Knesset House Committee members voting in favor of removing him from office due to the likely rape charges against him.

Four of the 25 members of the committee voted against impeachment. The number of committee members voting in favor is significantly smaller than that required to extend the impeachment process - 19, or 75 percent of committee members.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided in principle to indict the presidnet on a series of charges, including rape, subject to a hearing on the matter.

Voting in favor of impeachment were MKs Shelly Yachimovich, Nadia Hilo and Collette Avital (Labor); Gideon Sa'ar and Limor Livnat (Likud); Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash).

Voting against were MKs David Azoulay and Nissim Ze'ev (Shas); Yitzhak Galanti (Pensioners) and Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism).

Committee Chair Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) was not present for the vote, and MK Michael Eitan (Likud) abstained.

Six committee members were prevented from voting due to absences from previous meetings, and six additional members were absent from the vote despite being authorized to participate.

Avraham said she believed the process was begun too early, before Attorney General Menachem Mazuz had formulated his position on the matter.

As well, Avraham called on Kastav to resign from his position, saying that it is inappropriate for Katsav to retain the position. She said that had he stepped down on his own initiative, the Knesset would be spared from the process it is now being forced to undertake.

The decision to convene the committee for a vote was initiated by MKs Livnat and Gal-On, who were among the initiators of the impeachment petition, signed by 38 MKs.

"It is important that the public know who the officials are who are preventing the impeachment of the president," said Gal-On.

According to her, the decision not to impeach Katsav brings "shame and disgrace on the Knesset," in that it lets "a serial sexual offender continue to lead as Citizen Number 1."

Mazuz said Katsav's hearing will take place May 2. This will require the extension of his suspension period, slated to end on Independence Day, April 23.

Katstav's attorney, Zion Amir, said that he expects the president to ask the Knesset to extend his period of suspension. The Knesset may not extend the suspension period without first receiving a request from the president.