In a fiery and emotional speech, Israeli President Moshe Katsav denied allegations that he sexually assaulted four female employees and said he would take a leave of absence from his position, but would only resign if formally indicted.
"I didn't carry out any of the actions attributed to me," Katsav said. "The law does not demand that I quit. The attorney-general does not demand this. I am not prepared to bow to blackmail." But he added: "If he decides (to indict me), I promise to resign."
Katsav blamed the media for his troubles and even singled out a television reporter in the audience, saying he should be ashamed of himself for his coverage of the scandal.
Katsav also implied that the charges against him were racially motivated, focusing on an Iranian-born Jew being picked on by Jews of European heritage.
"I saw myself as a symbol for all those who are not part of the elite clique born with silver spoons in their mouths ... who believe that only they can represent the people of Israel," he said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for Katsav to resign after the Israeli attorney general announced his intention to indict the president on criminal charges including rape, abuse of power, obstruction of justice, fraud, sexual harassment and breach of trust.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfill his position and he must leave the president’s residence,” Olmert said. “This is a sad day for the State of Israel.”
A majority of Israelis think Katsav should resign and not settle for a temporary suspension from office. According to a poll performed by Yedioth Ahronoth and the Dahaf Institute, 71 percent of Israelis want him out immediately.
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