Only 7 Knesset House C'tee Members Vote to Impeach Katsav

The impeachment process against President Moshe Katsav finished yesterday, with only seven of the 25 Knesset House Committee members voting in favor.

Four of the 25 members voted against. In order to continue the process, 19 members - or 75 percent - would have had to vote in favor.

In favor were MKs Shelly Yachimovich, Nadia Hilou and Collette Avital (Labor); Gideon Sa'ar and Limor Livnat (Likud); Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash).

Voting against were MKs David Azoulay and Nissim Ze'ev (Shas); Itshac Galantee (Pensioners) and Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism).

Committee Chair Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) was not present for the vote, and MK Michael Eitan (Likud) abstained.

Six committee members could not participate due to absences at previous meetings, and six others did not attend even though they were eligible to vote.

Avraham said she believed the process had begun too early, before Attorney General Menachem Mazuz formulated his position on the matter.

She called on Katsav to resign, saying it was inappropriate for him to stay. She said that had he stepped down on his own initiative, the Knesset would be spared the process it is now being forced to undertake.

The move to convene the committee for a vote was initiated by Livnat and Gal-On, who were among the initiators of the impeachment petition, which 38 MKs signed.

"It is important the public knows which officials are preventing the impeachment of the president," said Gal-On.

The decision not to impeach Katsav brings "shame and disgrace on the Knesset," in that it lets "a serial sexual offender continue to lead as Citizen No. 1," she said.

Mazuz said Katsav's hearing was scheduled for May 2. This will require the extension of his suspension, slated to end on Independence Day, April 23.

Katsav's attorney, Zion Amir, said he expects the president to ask the Knesset to extend his suspension.