Eitan raps Supreme Court for dealing with Katsav petition

Likud MK Michael Eitan on Tuesday blasted the Supreme Court for agreeing to hear a petition calling on it to order the dismissal of President Moshe Katsav, saying there was nothing in existing law that gave the court such power. Eitan spoke in the presence of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch who was invited by the head of the Knesset Law Committee, Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) to talk to the committee members. Eitan said the court had placed itself above the law by interpreting laws any way it wanted. It had done so, for example, by interpreting the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation in such a way as to grant it the right to review and overturn Knesset legislation, even though there was nothing in the law that said it could. Since then, it had gone as far as to order the government to act against the law, Eitan charged. In the case of Katsav, said Eitan, the law was clear. "It says in the Basic Law: President [of the State] that 'The president of the State shall not be amenable to any court or tribunal, and shall be immune from any legal act, in respect of anything connected with his functions or powers.' This law and the Basic Law: The Knesset together determine what happens when a president acts illegally and who it is that can dismiss him. These laws determine the mechanism for dismissing a president. Yet, what do I see? The court convenes and will soon try to look for ways, through its interpretation of the law [to do so.]" At this point, Beinisch interrupted Eitan, saying, "The matter has not been discussed yet in court. There has not been a discussion and I ask you, since there will be a discussion [not to discuss it here.]" Ben-Sasson also protested that the matter was under the court's consideration and Eitan did not say any more about the matter. The court has scheduled it first hearing on the Katsav petition, which was submitted by Attorney Yossi Fuchs, for November 27. In the meantime, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz has submitted a brief saying that from the point of view of public confidence in the system, Katzav should suspend himself until the state decides whether he should be indicted. In his opening remarks at the beginning of the meeting, Ben-Sasson said the Knesset should consider whether to make changes in some existing laws in light of problems that have arisen during the current investigations of public figures. As an example, he mentioned the parliamentary efforts to change the Basic Law: President of the State. On Tuesday, the Knesset Law Committee voted down the law, which would enable the Knesset to force Katsav to resign. Although it has enjoyed popular support, only five of the committee's 19 members voted in favor of the law, which would expedite a process that would change the Basic Law. Beinisch urged the Knesset not to legislate changes while matters were currently before the court. "There are very sensitive matters before various courts," she said. "First, let the courts do their work. Afterwards, do yours if there is need for legislation, correction or parliamentary supervision. But let every authority act in its own sphere, its own time and according to what is required." Meanwhile, MKs Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and Yoram Marciano (Labor) said they had gathered seven of the 20 signatures necessary to begin deliberations in the Knesset House Committee to force the president to resign. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.