As president resigns, MKs work to overturn millions in benefits.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
President Moshe Katsav sent his resignation letter by messenger to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik at 11:30 a.m. Friday, following his acceptance of a plea bargain in the case against him.
In his two-sentence resignation letter, Katsav made no mention of his reason for resigning. He merely wrote that his term in office was set to end on July 14 but he decided to end the term two weeks early.
Legal experts puzzled by radical turnabout
Knesset legal officials ruled that the letter would take effect on Sunday at 11:30 a.m., 48 hours after it was received, and that the Shabbat would not delay the deadline for Katsav to take back his resignation until Monday.
Itzik will serve as acting president, as she has done since Katsav's suspension, until the swearing-in ceremony for President-elect Shimon Peres on July 15. Katsav's resignation will have no impact on her powers during the upcoming two weeks.
As a former president, Katsav will enjoy a hefty pension of NIS 48,000 a month, plus an office with two secretaries, a car and driver, an apartment paid for by the state and a bodyguard. His cell phone bill and a land line will also be paid. Knesset officials estimated the value of the pension and benefits at more than NIS 1 million a year.
Likud MK Gilad Erdan already passed a bill in preliminary reading to remove benefits from a president or public official who was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. Knesset House Committee chair Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) submitted a bill to prevent Katsav from receiving a pension from the state. Avraham intends to expedite the bills through her committee.
Israel Beiteinu MKs have submitted bills calling for the cancellation of the office of president.
A public opinion poll by the Dahaf Research Institute published Friday in Yediot Aharonot showed 69 percent of those surveyed opposed the plea bargain and 73% thought justice wasn't served. The poll surveyed 503 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
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