JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli President Moshe Katsav resigned on Friday, a day after admitting to sex crimes against women employees in a case that has brought unprecedented disgrace on an Israeli head of state.
When his resignation from the largely ceremonial post takes effect on Sunday, the speaker of parliament will be president for two weeks. Former prime minister Shimon Peres, elected earlier this month to replace Katsav, takes office on July 15.
Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said Katsav had written to legislators saying: “I ask to end my tenure in office two weeks ahead of time and announce my resignation.”
With his seven-year term due to end in July, Katsav took a leave of absence in January when plans to indict him were first announced. His duties were taken on by Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, who will now briefly hold the formal title of president.
The president had immunity from prosecution while in office.
Under a plea bargain published on Thursday, the state dropped a charge of raping one woman employee and Katsav pleaded guilty to indecent acts against another. He also admitted sexually harassing a third woman who had worked for him.
The attorney-general said Katsav would receive a suspended sentence, pending court approval of the plea bargain. The offences he admitted to carry a maximum sentence of seven years.
Katsav, who had long protested his innocence, also agreed to pay nearly $12,000 in compensation to the two women.
The case has stirred powerful emotions in a country where women’s rights groups complain that authorities do little to counter sexual harassment at work.
Several newspapers criticized the plea bargain deal. “Foul Deal” was the front-page banner verdict of the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth. A poll published by the newspaper found 69 percent of Israelis were dissatisfied with the outcome.
Katsav, born in Iran, had served as a minister with the rightist Likud party before his surprise defeat of Peres in a vote in parliament in 2000 to become head of state.
Additional reporting by Avida Landau in Jerusalem