Avraham proposes to eliminate presidency

Yacimovich, Avraham open their own investigations into Beit Hanassi matters.

katsav flag 298 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
katsav flag 298 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
While police questioned President Moshe Katsav for the second consecutive day Thursday regarding claims of sexual assault leveled by a former employee, two female Knesset members took their own approach to the investigation into the head of state's alleged misconduct. MKs Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) lashed out against Katsav. The two said they felt a "deep personal interest" in the incident, which had motivated them to open their own investigations into matters at Beit Hanassi. Avraham, who earlier joined MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) in becoming the first lawmakers to call for the president to take a leave of absence, went a step further Thursday and submitted a bill to eliminate the presidency. For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here Investigators questioned Katsav for five hours, following Wednesday's seven-hour session, and high-ranking police officers said Thursday that additional sessions would be scheduled next week. Police are investigating claims by the president that the former employee had attempted to blackmail him, and contradicting claims by the woman, referred to as "A," that the president had "sexual contact" with her when she worked at Beit Hanassi. The president's family, including his wife, Gila, and their children and grandchildren, awaited Katsav at the end of Thursday's session. Katsav was supposed to leave for a family vacation on Thursday, but insisted on continuing with the investigation to prove his innocence. In the evening, the Katsav entourage, including the president's legal team, left Jerusalem to spend the weekend at the family's Kiryat Malachi home. Katsav's spokesman emphasized the president's innocence and desire to clear his name of allegations ranging from inappropriate sexual contact to rape. Referring to her campaign, Avraham said the office of the presidency "was no longer needed," and the task of issuing presidential pardons could easily be carried out, at less expense, by the president of the Supreme Court. Because the Knesset is in the middle of its summer recess, the bill will not be voted on until the legislature reconvenes at the end of October. Yacimovich, meanwhile, appeared on television to declare that she had met with Katsav's former employee and felt "a deep sense of sympathy" for the girl, whom she repeatedly described as "helpless." Yacimovich said that "A" had approached her out of concern that the media was portraying her side of the case unfairly. The two met for several hours, said Yacimovich, emphasizing that "A" told her that the president had not just engaged in sexual harassment, but had raped her. "In light of the serious accusations... it would be worthwhile for Katsav to gather his belongings and leave Beit Hanassi," said Yacimovich, who added that she would sign a proposal by fellow Labor legislator Yoram Marciano to begin parliamentary proceedings aimed at removing Katsav from office. Katsav attorney, Zion Amir, rejected Yacimovich's comments. "I am shocked at what I hear coming from the mouth of Shelly Yacimovich. She puts herself in the position of investigator and judge," he said. Amir suggested that Yacimovich had a history of working against the president, citing an instance during her career as a journalist in which Yacimovich canceled an interview with Katsav to interview then-PA security chief Muhammad Dahlan. Also Thursday, the president's office released a statement rejecting earlier reports about Tuesday's police raid on the president's residence, in which computers that reportedly contained intimate correspondence were taken from Katsav's office. "The president does not have a personal computer and is not corresponding with anyone via e-mail," the Beit Hanassi spokesmen said.