Katsav’s Pension Can’t Be Touched but MK Demands His Expenses Be Cut

MK Aryeh Eldad ‏(National Union‏) has asked the Knesset Finance Committee to convene immediately to discontinue the funding Moshe Katsav receives as a former president, rather than wait until the court decides whether Katsav’s conviction carries moral turpitude.

Sources close to the Knesset legal adviser were reportedly opposed to such a move until the court decided the matter of moral turpitude, which it is expected to do within a few weeks.

Over the past three and a half years, Katsav has received NIS 6 million from the state: NIS 4 million for his bureau and related expenses and NIS 2 million for his pension.

Katsav’s monthly pension as an elected public official amounts to NIS 47,471. This sum will not be touched, even if he is charged with moral turpitude.

He could lose his bureau expenses, including an office in Ramat Gan, 3.5 staff positions for secretaries, a driver and partial funding of household expenses at his home in Kiryat Malakhi. The state also provides Katsav with a car ‏(an Audi A6‏), a driver and bodyguards, plus NIS 10,400 a year to defray the cost of newspaper subscriptions and phone bills for life.

In 2006, the Knesset Finance Committee, which is charged with determining the benefits for former presidents and prime ministers, limited these payments for presidents to seven years after they left office, and for prime ministers to five years, arguing that after this time the individuals have little need for such funds for their public dealings.

However, Katsav, then still president, pressed to have the limitation take effect only after he left office, thus making the benefits available to him for life. MK Haim Oron ‏(Meretz‏), who headed the Knesset Finance Subcommittee in 2006 setting the benefits of former presidents and prime ministers, demanded, following Katsav’s indictment, that the state funding for Katsav’s office and aides be frozen. Oron’s demand was not brought to a vote.

Katsav’s pension will increase by 4 percent in January 2011, in line with the increase in the average wage to which the president’s salary is also linked. Because of Katsav’s years in the Knesset and government, his pension will stand next month at NIS 49,233.

As a former president, Katsav also receives official and ceremonial invitations, such as to Memorial Day ceremonies and state receptions. According to rules of protocol, he enters the venue following the current president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker, the president of the Supreme Court and the chief rabbis.

The ministerial committee in charge of ceremonies and symbols will now have to make decisions regarding future invitations of this sort to Katsav. Committee chairman, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, said yesterday it was a sad day, and not the day to discuss such things. There’s another issue to be discussed; former presidents are interred on Mount Herzl in the section reserved for the leaders of the nation, and their coffins lie in state at the President’s Residence. A bust of Katsav stands in the garden of the residence along with those of other former presidents, and that also may be be discussed.