'Deri warned Shas not to vote for Katsav'

"His values are far from those of Shas," former party leader said; bill proposed to require hearings for presidential candidates.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, REBECCA ANNA STOIL
January 2, 2011 21:12
3 minute read.
Arye Deri.

Arye Deri 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Former Shas leader Arye Deri warned the Shas faction not to vote for Moshe Katsav in the July 31, 2000, vote for president, warning that he might “shame” Israel, sources close to Deri told The Jerusalem Post Sunday night.

In doing so, they confirmed a report aired earlier on Channel 2.

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Shas had been divided ahead of the vote between supporters of Eli Yishai, who backed Katsav, and Deri’s allies, who wanted to vote for Katsav’s opponent, Shimon Peres. Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef instructed his MKs at the last minute to vote for Katsav, sealing his victory.

“There are rumors about Katsav that his values are far from those of Shas and that his election could bring great shame to the country,” Deri said ahead of the vote, but his power by then was limited, because he had been forced to resign from the Knesset.

Sources close to Deri told the Post that Yishai persuaded Yosef to back Katsav, because Peres was ready to pardon Deri had he been elected.

While other public figures said Sunday that they were aware about the rumors about Katsav, no MK who voted for him was willing to come forward and say he knew. Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev criticized those who claimed now to have known the truth about Katsav back then but did not tell him and other wavering voters.

“Suddenly now everyone knew and everyone is a retroactive prophet,” Ze’ev said. “I have nothing to apologize for. When I voted for him, as far as I knew, he was clean as snow. I knew Katsav. He seemed to be a very nice guy.”

Ze’ev said he disagreed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that Katsav’s conviction helped Israel’s image because it proved that in Israel everyone was equal under the law. He said Katsav’s conviction harmed Israel’s image irrevocably and that rather than harping on the story, the Israeli media should let it die.

MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) announced on Sunday that he was re-submitting a bill that would mandate a public hearing to air complaints against any presidential candidates.

Orlev’s bill, which would amend the Basic Law: The President, would mandate that “no later than a week before the elections, the Knesset House Committee will call the candidates for a hearing that will be held publicly. During the hearing, the candidates will answer questions asked by committee members regarding their suitability for the position, and will present documentation as requested. If a candidate does not appear for the hearing, they will be seen as though they do not agree to be presented as a candidate for the presidency.”

The Knesset – not the public – elects the president every seven years, and thus the electoral process is carried out with less opportunity for public oversight than there is for the national elections.

Orlev initially drafted the legislation in early months of the investigation against Katsav and filed it with the Knesset on February 12, 2007 – just over six months after the initial reports of the complaints against the then-president were publicly aired.

At the time, Orlev decided not to push for the bill’s advancement. Now, after Katsav’s conviction on several counts of sex offenses, including rape and sexual harassment, the veteran lawmaker – who voted for Katsav in the 2000 presidential election – has decided to advance the legislation.

Orlev denied on Sunday to Israel Radio that he had heard any of the rumors that circulated in 2000 regarding Katsav’s behavior.

“A candidate can be elected to the position at the head of the state, for a period of seven years, even if members of Knesset are not deeply familiar with the candidate’s background or experience,” warned Orlev in his official explanation of the bill.

“In light of the criticism that has been heard recently regarding the president, it is proposed that the Knesset mandate that each candidate for the position be called to a hearing before the House Committee."


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