(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A top legal official on Thursday urged President Moshe Katsav to temporarily step down while police investigate allegations he sexually harassed former employees.
The legal adviser to the Knesset, Nurit Elstein, called on Katsav to take a leave of absence because he is unable to perform his duties.
Katsav said Thursday he would not preside over a swearing-in ceremony next week for the new Supreme Court chief justice.
Katsav, whose position is largely ceremonial, was questioned Thursday for a fourth time over the sexual harassment allegations. He is slated to be questioned again next week.
Senior police officers are looking into a complaint filed by a former presidential employee alleging that Katsav made unwanted sexual advances. At least two other former employees have made similar allegations; Channel 10 reported Thursday that at least three women have accused Katsav of rape.
At least one other employee accused Katsav of selling presidential pardons - one of the few powers conferred to him.
Katsav has denied the allegations. Investigators are also looking into his allegation of an extortion attempt by one of the former employees.
Since the first complaints against Katsav surfaced several months ago, several women have gone anonymously to the media with claims that he had made unwanted advances.
Newspaper editorials and several lawmakers have called on Katsav to resign or at least take a leave of absence until the allegations against him are proved or disproved. Katsav says he is innocent and refuses to step down.
A Labor Party legislator has started gathering signatures from members of parliament to launch impeachment proceedings.