"The High Court of Justice does not have the authority to demand of the President of the State to respond to the petition nor order him to resign or suspend himself," President Moshe Katsav wrote Monday in response to a petition calling on the High Court to order him to do one or the other.
The petition was submitted by attorney Yossi Fuchs in the wake of the investigation into allegations that he had committed rape and other sexual crimes against several women who worked for him during different periods of time.
In his response, prepared by Yona Sheindorf, the legal advisor of the President, Katsav quoted Article 13 of the Basic Law: President, which states that "the President of the State shall not be amenable to any court or tribunal, and shall be immune from any legal act, in respect of anything connected with his functions or powers."
The president pointed out that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had written an opinion the previous day to the same effect.
"We are dealing with a petition which directly attacks the president with regard to his responsibilities and prerogatives," Mazuz wrote in his response to the court on Sunday. "The remedies the petitioners are asking for - that is, Olmert's resignation or temporary cessation from discharging his duties - are aimed directly at the president. Therefore, it seems, the court is not authorized to hear the petition or grant the requested remedies."
Katsav, however, did not relate to another portion of Mazuz's response, in which the attorney-general asserted that even though the court may be unable to force the president to suspend himself, the law makes it clear that he ought to do so himself, and if he refuses, the Knesset should force him to.
"The fact that it is the president himself who must [according to the Basic Law: President] initiate the procedure of temporary cessation of exercise of office does not alter or lessen the responsibility and obligations of the president in these circumstances," wrote Mazuz. "The Attorney-General is of the opinion that the more the decision by the prosecution and the Attorney-General takes shape in principle to file and indictment, pending a hearing, the more improper and unworthy it will be for the president to continue in office. The proper thing for the president to do [in that case] would be to activate the procedure of temporary cessation of exercise of office and stop fulfilling his functions and prerogatives until a final decision is made about whether or not he should stand trial."
Fuchs reacted to Katsav's response on Monday evening by saying that "it is surprising that someone being investigated by the police in the President Katsav affair is the one who signed his response to the High Court" - a reference to legal advisor Sheindorf.
Fuchs also aimed to refute Katsav's claim that the High Court did not have the authority to rule on the appeal.
Meanwhile, in a statement to the press, Katsav added that he was certain of his innocence and said everyone should obey the law and legal procedures.
"No man is above the law, not even those who are so quick to pass judgment," said Katsav.
The president plans to continue with his regular duties and on Wednesday morning is due to host Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is paying a private visit to Israel.
Wednesday evening, Katsav is due to preside over the opening ceremony at Beit Hanassi commemorating the 11th anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, and on Thursday to participate in the state memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this story.