Knesset: Katsav Will Remain on Leave Until End of Presidency

Knesset House Committee Chair Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) yesterday rejected a demand by President Moshe Katsav's attorneys to change the wording of the committee's decision to extend Katsav's period of temporary incapacity to serve.

Last week, the president's attorneys asked the committee to approve the extension "until further notice," but instead, the committee extended it until his term ends, in July.

The lawyers argued that the committee had no authority to word the decision in this way, because the law requires it simply to accept or reject the president's request.

Avraham responded that the only legal opinion that obligates the committee was that of Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein, and Elstein told the committee that the law requires it to stipulate an ending date for the president's incapacity. Thus the decision to extend the incapacity until the end of Katsav's term was satisfied the letter of the law, she said.

"According to the law, the president can end his incapacity any time he chooses with a unilateral announcement," she added.

"The committee's answer to the president is another small humiliation, a kind of wisecrack," Katsav attorney Zion Amir said. "I don't know whether this was a political trick, but in the end, they wrote something that is a cross between incapacity and resignation, because in any case, his term of office ends during this period. I imagine that they were unaware of this when they formulated their decision. But we do not want this decision to stand, especially for historical reasons, and therefore, we asked for the change."

Katsav's associates said that he strongly objected to creating the impression that it would be impossible for him to return to active duty after his hearing with the attorney general next week.

Elstein, in her own response to Katsav's attorneys, wrote that their demand "was not in keeping with the Basic Law on the President," adding: "You would have the Knesset House Committee not fulfill its obligation and not set the period of incapacity."