Efforts to use parliamentary measures to impeach President Moshe Katsav stalled Monday, as most MKs refused to sign the necessary petition.
Only six MKs were willing to sign a petition that would begin proceedings in the Knesset House Committee to impeach Katsav. A minimum of 20 signatures are needed to begin the process.
"The blatant truth is that the Knesset has no spine," said Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On, who led the impeachment efforts. "Everyone got onto the bandwagon when it was just about a simple protest, but nobody wants to take the next step and force him to resign."
After police announced Sunday that they would recommend Katsav be charged with a range of offenses including rape, more than 20 MKs promised to protest if he attended the Knesset's opening day ceremonies. Those protests were quelled, however, when Katsav's brother, Lior Katsav, phoned the Knesset Monday morning and announced that the president had decided against attending the ceremony.
Lior Katsav said the president would not resign from his post at this time, but would absent himself from the Knesset to "safeguard the dignity of the parliament."
"The president spared us all embarrassment and shame," said Gal-On.
Other MKs, including Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) and Michael Eitan (Likud), praised Katsav for his absence.
"It is a fitting action, but we must remember that it does not constitute an admission of guilt," said Eitan. "The Knesset is not the place for this impeachment talk now."
The signatures of 20 MKs would only begin the impeachment proceedings. Once the House Committee received the signatures, it would call a special committee meeting and call the president or his representative to appear and refute the charges. The committee would then vote on the proceedings, and if two-thirds supported the impeachment, it would move to the plenum, where another vote would take place and 90 of the 120 MKs would need to vote in favor of ousting Katsav.
"There is simply no way this will happen, there is not even close to a majority for it," said Gal-On.
In the meantime, MKs appeared content to gossip over who the next president would be.