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Former president Moshe Katsav will lose most of his benefits only if he is convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, according to the Finance Committee's decision yesterday.

The debate on revoking Katsav's benefits began after TheMarker revealed in October 2006 that the president would receive lifelong benefits even if he were found guilty of crimes of moral turpitude.

Meanwhile, until the court rules on the charges of sexual misconduct against Katsav, the former president is entitled to his full state-sponsored benefits package.

This includes monthly pension payments, an office, part-time living quarters, a vehicle, assistants and a driver. The benefits will cost taxpayers an estimated NIS 1 million annually.

Katsav will cease to receive the benefits only if he is convicted. The Magistrate's Court hearing his plea bargain will decide whether accusations against the former president are serious enough to warrant revoking his benefits.

The parties have told the court that they disagree on this issue. Katsav's attorney Avigdor Feldman has said he will argue against such a move. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch commented during the appeal of the plea bargain that the evidence it presents does not indicate a crime of moral turpitude. Knesset sources note that if the court finds this to be the case, Katsav may continue to enjoy his full benefits.

MK Haim Oron has led the lobby calling for the potential revocation of benefits, and has demanded this matter be settled before Katsav's trial is completed. The Finance Committee reached its decision unanimously.

Katsav to keep pension

Nevertheless, even if the court decides Katsav's crimes warrant the revocation of state benefits, not all of them will be rescinded. Katsav will continue to receive his monthly pension payments, health insurance and other lifelong benefits.

The Finance Committee's decision will also apply to former prime ministers, ministers and judges who are convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, as well as their widows.