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The impeachment process against President Moshe Katsav died out with barely a whimper Wednesday, as only seven of the 25 Knesset Members on the House Committee voted in favor of impeachment.
When the House Committee began meeting on impeachment hearings two months ago, the room could barely hold the multitude of MKs who came to speak and try to nudge their way into the committee hearings as stand-ins. On Wednesday, however, only 14 of the 25 committee members were present for the vote. The low vote turnout was partly based on a last-minute decision by Committee Chairwoman Ruhama Avraham to ban six MKs from taking part in the vote, after they failed to participate in at least 50 percent of the discussion.
"This is based on a law set down in the books, that an MK must be present at half of the discussions in order to vote on the issueâ€¦ it is often not practiced but on an important issue such as this I felt it was appropriate," said Avraham.
The final vote was seven in favor of impeachment, four against, and two abstentions.
Voting in favor of impeachment were Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Nadia Hilou and Colette Avital, Likud MKs Gideon Sa'ar and Limor Livnat, MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and MK Dov Henin (Hadash). Shas MKs David Azoulay and Nissim Ze'ev, MK Yitzhak Galanti (Gil) and MK Meir Porush (UTJ) voted against. Avraham announced that she was abstaining from the vote, and MK Mickey Eitan refused to take part at all because "the discussion was so inappropriate."
"I am sad to discover that the Knesset's disgrace has been revealed in full. A Knesset
which is incapable of impeaching a president allegedly accused of severe sex offenses, is failing in its moral and legal duty to the public," said Gal-On, who was one of the founders of the petition. Her cofounder, Limor Livnat, said that she was also "ashamed" of the Knesset members who voted against impeachment.
Thirty-Eight MKs signed the petition initiated by Livnat and Gal-On, but Avraham blamed the two MKs for starting the impeachment process too early.
"Had we waited until [Attorney General Menahem] Mazuz came to his position, there may have been different support for the impeachment," said Avraham, and added that she continued to ask for Kastsav to resign from his post.
Last month, Mazuz said Katsav's hearing would take place May 2. This would require the extension of his suspension period, slated to end on Independence Day, April 23.
Gal-On said that she was weary to grant the president an extension, as it was the current temporary suspension that slowed down the Knesset's momentum on the impeachment process.
"We all know that those who pushed to grant Katsav the suspension that he is currently enjoying did so because they knew it would kill the movement to have him impeached," said Gal-On. "We all know who those MKs are and what they really stand for."