MKs Seek to Revoke Katsav's Pension Perks

Knesset members yesterday demanded that outgoing president Moshe Katsav's post-retirement benefits of NIS 1 million a year be revoked. Katsav this week avoided rape charges through a plea bargain, but charges such as sexual harassment and indecent assault remain.

After leaving office, Katsav, 61, is entitled to an apartment, car and assistants, in addition to a NIS 500,000 annual pension.

The cumulative cost of the benefits to the state is an estimated NIS 25 million, based on a life expectancy of 78.

The law does not provide for a case of a convicted president, so Katsav would continue to receive these benefits even if convicted.

However, a number of MKs have prepared bills revoking retirement benefits of public figures who are convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude. The bills will be submitted to the Knesset's House Committee next Tuesday.

Knesset sources said the committee will try to enact the bills before Katsav is convicted so they may be applied to him.

MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) has presented a proposal stipulating that a former president, minister or Knesset member who is convicted of a crime committed during his term of office will not receive state payments apart from his monthly pension.

"Apart from the damage caused to the public's confidence in the Knesset by MKs and public figures who have been convicted of crimes, these people continue to receive benefits at the public's expense their whole life," Erdan said.

"Elected officials must set a personal example and be a role model. To strengthen the public's confidence in the Knesset and its members we must increase the sanctions toward a Knesset member who is convicted and make it clear that such a criminal cannot go on receiving the post-retirement benefits of public figures."

MK Ruhama Avraham Balila (Kadima) presented a bill revoking various benefits and the monthly pension of public figures convicted of a crime with a penalty of three years in prison or worse.

The chairman of the Knesset's Ethics Committee, Haim Oron (Meretz), said recently that "if the president is indicted and convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, then the Finance Committee must reconsider these terms after his retirement."

Katsav is entitled to a monthly pension of NIS 46,278 - the same as his monthly president's wage, due to his seniority in public office. He has served as a Knesset member and minister since 1977.

He is also entitled to an annual NIS 1 million budget to maintain an apartment, office, car, driver and staff, including a domestic staff to run his home. Should he give up his Jerusalem apartment, his private residence in Kiryat Malachi would be run at the state's expense for life. The state will also pay for his telephone and mobile phone expenses, a Volvo luxury sedan and driver, a hospitality allowance, and the medical bills of him and his wife.