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Israeli President, Beset by Scandal, Skips Parliament Opening


Israeli President Moshe Katsav, on Monday did not appear at the opening of the winter session of the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, one day after senior police officials recommended he be indicted on rape charges, as well as other criminal offenses. Pressure is growing on Israel's president to resign from his largely ceremonial post.

Talk is growing in Israel's Knesset of bringing impeachment charges against Mr. Katsav, and pressure is growing on the veteran politician to resign from his post as Israel's head of state. He was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2000, and his term ends next year.

One of Mr. Katsav's main duties is to open parliament. His failure to appear at Monday's opening session comes one day after senior police officials recommended that he be indicted on charges of rape, aggravated sexual assault, illegal wiretapping and fraud.

The charges will be the most serious ever faced by an Israeli politician, if Israel's attorney general decides to bring an indictment. Mr. Katsav, a veteran politician, who is a member of the right-of-center Likud party, says he is innocent. His brother Lior says the president is being blackmailed by a former female employee who worked in the president's office.

Lior Katsav says his brother is innocent, is being framed and is being blamed for things that never happened.

Mr. Katsav has parliamentary immunity, but, if he is impeached, he could face trial. A number of parliamentarians and Cabinet members, including Education Minister Yuli Tamir, have called on the president to step down.

"I think that the president should announce his resignation from his post," said Tamir. "The Number One citizen of Israel [Katsav] is accused of such crimes, it is unbearable, that it is unbearable to even think he will stay in his presidency."

Police say the charges against Mr. Katsav are based on interviews with as many as 10 women. Police have also interviewed Mr. Katsav on several occasions, and, in August, they searched the presidential residence, seizing numerous documents.

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