Knesset Members File Bills That Would Deny Benefits to Katsav

Convicts shouldn't get privileges at taxpayers' expense, feel Ruhama Avraham and Gilad Erdan

The Knesset is racing against the clock to pass a law that would deny monetary benefits to politicians convicted of crimes. What's the rush? The parliamentarians want to pass the law before Moshe Katsav is officially convicted, pursuant to the plea bargain announced on Thursday, so the law would apply to him too.

If the law passes only after his conviction, be sure that some will complain it's a vendetta against him.

In October 2006 TheMarker reported that like all ex-presidents, Katsav is entitled to have taxpayers finance an office, a protected residence, a car, aides and more and more, costing about a million shekels a year, not including his pension of about half a million more.

The accrued cost of his various benefits is about NIS 25 million a year, say until he reaches age 78, which is the average life span of the Israeli man.

At the time Haim Oron, chairman of the Knesset Ethics Committee, commented that if Katsav is ultimately convicted of crime, the Knesset Finance Committee - which is responsible for the president's retirement terms - could always reopen the issue for debate.

But the Knesset Finance Committee is not the only one with powers in the issue. Katsav's retirement benefits could also be denied through legislation.

On Tuesday the House Committee of the Knesset will be debating two private-member bills, both of which passed their first of three readings into law. Both would deny privileges at the taxpayer's expense to public officials convicted of crime.

Gilad Erdan of the Likud filed a bill proposing that any former president or minister of Knesset member found guilty of a criminal act when in office, stop receiving payments from the state, other than a monthly stipend.

Ruhama Avraham of Kadima proposed after the Azmi Bishara case, that various payments including monthly pension stipends be denied to public officials convicted of crimes whose penalty is more than three years' prison.

The Knesset hopes that the Knesset members will dare to do their moral duty and pass laws, that would Katsav the protected flat, the office, the aides and the car for life, not merely settle for his resignation while continuing to live off the taxpayer for life.