Does the President Have to Ask?

Can the Knesset extend the temporary incapacity of President Moshe Katzav without his request? The answer is not clear. According to the Basic Law on the President of the State, it is the president who has to initiate the process to declare himself temporarily incapacitated. It also stipulates that the Knesset "is permitted to consecutively extend it by no longer than three months."

Former Knesset legal adviser Zvi Inbar told Haaretz two months ago that the law can be construed as allowing the committee to initiate the extension of the president's incapacity on its own initiative. By contrast, parliamentary jurist Dr. Suzie Navot believes the initiation of the process is to be reserved to the president's discretion. According to her, only he can request its extension.

It merits mentioning that even if the House Committee decides to extend Katzav's incapacitation, he could always reverse his status by simply informing the committee that he is fit to fulfill his duties. The ommittee would have no say in the matter.

Incapacitation of more than six months requires the approval of the Knesset House Committee and that of the plenum. However, Katsav's term will end in July, so a third period of incapacitation will not be necessary.