Burning Issues brings our best opinion writers to one podium, where they respond, in brief and in real time, to a question about one of the hottest news topics on the agenda. Our aim is also to get you, our readers, involved, by sharing your opinions with the JPost community, or if you wish, by responding to any specific posting. A link to the writer's most recent column appears at the end of each posting. #6: How should world react to N. Korean nuke test? #5: Should Israel change its system of gov't? #4: Should Israel support Abbas against Hamas? #3: Should Israel initiate talks with Syria? #2: Who is ahead, Bush or Ahmadinejad? #1: Should the Pope have apologized?

Question #7

Should President Katsav suspend himself or resign after police recommended indicting him on multiple offenses, including charges of rape and sexual misconduct, or should the policy of 'innocent until proven guilty' apply to citizen #1 the same way it applies to all citizens? Contributions by Jonathan Rosenblum, Caroline Glick, Calev Ben-David, Isi Leibler, Naomi Chazan and Shlomo Avineri. Caroline Glick: The allegations of rape and other serious offenses being made against President Moshe Katzav have made it difficult for Katzav to competently perform his duties as president. Everywhere he goes he is bombarded by questions relating to the allegations against him. This fact alone would make the argument for Katzav's speedy resignation a compelling one. But the counterargument for this claim - that Katzav has yet to be found guilty for these charges, let alone indicted for them and therefore has a right to stay on as president - would tend on balance to overwhelm it. On the other hand, the public and legal storm raging around Katzav has strategic implications for Israel that make it imperative for the president to resign immediately. North Korea's nuclear bomb test last week, Iran's steady progress towards nuclear weapons capabilities, the growing threat of war from Syria and the escalating threats from Gaza and south Lebanon, when taken together place Israel in greater national peril than we have ever been before. At a time like this it is essential that the public's attention be centered on these critical and escalating threats. The only way that the country's political leadership will be forced to take measures to defend Israel, or be exposed as incompetent to take those measures and so be swiftly booted from office by the Knesset and the public, is if the media gives the threats arrayed against the Jewish state sufficient attention. The criminal probe against Katzav has monopolized the media's attention. The media's obsession with the story has taken critical national security issues out of the public eye. The front pages of the daily tabloids and the top of every radio and television newscast are filled with stories relating to Katzav and other probes of public officials. For this situation to have any chance of being rectified, Katzav must remove himself from the public eye by resigning. Our World: The debasement of law Calev Ben-David: Katsav should resign immediately. The policy of "innocent until proven guilty" applies to his legal status, not the privilege of serving as president. An elected official enjoys greater latitude in these matters, since he or she is ultimately subject to the will of the voters. But the presidency is strictly a ceremonial role, which requires at the very minimum that it's occupant act in a manner during his or her term of office that avoids bringing even the faintest whiff of scandal to Beit Hanasi. Katsav has already failed that test, even before any conviction or even indictment by the Attorney-General, and that's why - like Ezer Weizman before him - he should resign his position now and focus himself on his personal legal struggle. A more interesting question is: Who should succeed him? Natan Sharansky seems the most attractive choice in the current landscape of possible contenders, certainly more so than the likes of Reuven Rivlin or Rabbi Lau. Over the long term though, the Knesset should stop looking within its own ranks for presidential candidates. Even better would be a new law that eliminates anyone who has held any kind of political office for at least the previous five years as a potential choice for president. This is a position that was intended to be apolitical, so it makes sense to look in other fields of public life for possible presidents, including the sciences and arts. Just as Ben-Gurion once offered the presidency to Albert Einstein, Katsav's successors would be preferable to come from outside what is already a severely damaged political sphere. Snap Judgment: A smart media buy Jonathan Rosenblum: One can sympathize with President Katsav's desire to have his day in court, and his frustration with the way his case is being tried via police leaks to the press. But the fact remains that he can no longer function as President. That was made abundantly clear when he was forced to be a no-show for the opening of the new session of the Knesset due to threats of numerous MKs to protest his attendance. Even were Attorney-General Mazuz to find that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, it is unlikely that the cloud hovering over Katsav would lift. His accusers would fill the media with their stories, and their sheer numbers would no doubt leave the public convinced that where there is so much smoke there must at least be a little fire. Think Again: Succot and the war in Lebanon Isi Leibler: The tragic saga surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct by President Katzav epitomizes the low level to which public morality has descended. President Katzav has already been found guilty by the media and the courts may or may not validate this. Until he has been tried he must be presumed innocent. Yet if an indictment is initiated, the national interest requires him to suspend himself pending the outcome of his trial. Yet the police also displayed almost obscene contempt for due process. The role of the police should be restricted to gathering information to be conveyed to the Attorney General who, on the basis of evidence submitted, either proceeds with an indictment or decides that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. It is outrageous for the police to leak information concerning investigations to the media prior to indictment. There have been cases where the police released information discrediting people to the media who were not indicted and thus unable to defend themselves, their reputations stained forever. This abrogation of justice by the police must cease. We need the guts to say no to Rice Naomi Chazan: Of course Katsav must resign. He is innocent until proven guilty, but publicly he is done and the longer he stays in office the more he undermines the institution of the presidency. Critical Currents: A year of renovations Shlomo Avineri: Of course President Katzav is entitled to the presumption of innocence and should not be prejudged. But once it became clear that he is about to be indicted, he should have immediately rescued himself temporarily from his office: as a matter of fact, any honest person would have done this the moment a police inquiry was launched against him.
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