Suspension was right

In order to enable a president under investigation but who hasn't been indicted to return to his position, I introduced the suspension bill.

By MICHAEL EITAN
January 26, 2007 00:06
2 minute read.

During president Ezer Weizman's tenure, allegations were made that he had been involved in criminal activity and a police investigation was opened. I thought at the time that it was improper for the president of the state, whose primary duties are symbolic, to be questioned by police while pardoning prisoners himself or accepting the credentials of foreign ambassadors. But the legal situation at the time was that the president couldn't suspend the fulfilment of his duties temporarily (except for health reasons), and Weizman's argument that his resignation during a police investigation would have irreversible consequences was taken seriously. Weizman argued that if an indictment did not emerge from the police probe, or he was tried and found to be innocent, it would be too late, because his resignation would have already become a fait accompli, and he would no longer be president. And so, precisely in order to enable a president who is under investigation but who hasn't been indicted to return to his position if the attorney-general does not find sufficient evidence to indict him, I introduced a bill that was passed by the Knesset. Under the law, the president may ask the Knesset House Committee to release him temporarily from his post. The legislation, which I hoped would never have to be enforced, was meant to serve as a means to balance the public need for a president under investigation to step down and the legal presumption of innocence that would defend the president's claim of innocence. Now, to my sorrow, the law has become relevant. So long as the attorney-general has not made a final decision on serving an indictment, President Katsav's status is that of someone being investigated. Even the attorney-general himself acknowledged in his letter to the president's attorneys that there is a possibility, albeit a slight one, that he will change his mind and not present an indictment. Hence it was appropriate Thursday for the Knesset House Committee to accept Katsav's request that he be released temporarily from his post. If no indictment is brought, it will be possible to reverse his suspension from the presidency. On the other hand, if the attorney-general informs the Knesset and the public that he is ready to indict the president, temporary suspension is not sufficient, and Katsav, as he has promised via his attorneys, will resign. If Katsav did not do so, I am sure that the required 90 MKs would be found to ensure his dismissal. Until the moment the attorney-general decides there is enough evidence to actually charge the president, we must consider his plea, "I am innocent," and give him a fair chance to persuade the attorney-general of this. The message conveyed by the House Commitee's decision on Thursday is that the Knesset is not ignoring the allegations against the president, and he has thus been temporarily suspended in accordance with the law, but neither has the Knesset taken irreversible steps toward his impeachment. The Knesset has implemented the spirit of the law, and presented a degree of humanity and balance between important values, as befits a solid society seeking justice. The Knesset had to base its decision on those who have seen the evidence, like the attorney-general, and not rely on media reports. If Mazuz is waiting for a hearing with Katsav's lawyers before finalizing a decision on whether to indict the president, then so, too, must the Knesset wait. We are not involved in a public lynching here. MKs don't blindly follow the opinion polls but, rather, proper legal process. The writer is a Likud MK.


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