(August 18, 2019 / Israel Hayom) Likud Knesset member Haim Katz resigned as Israel’s welfare minister on Friday after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced earlier in the week that he plans to indict him on fraud and breach of trust charges.
Katz, who denies any wrongdoing, is accused of allegedly using his office to advance his own financial interests as well as those of his friend, businessman Mordechai Ben-Ari.
“In all my actions, in fulfilling my ministerial duties and as a member of Knesset, I acted in an impartial way and in the interest of the public,” Katz wrote in his resignation letter, which he sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Following Katz’s resignation, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced she expects to be appointed to the role, while adding that she hopes Katz is able to clear his name.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not comment on her demand.
Katz, who will remain an MK, is expected to seek parliamentary immunity from the Knesset ahead of the Sept. 17 election, but it is unclear whether his efforts will succeed.
The current Knesset, elected on April 9, was disbanded merely one month into its term and never staffed its committees, meaning there is no House Committee to which Katz can appeal for immunity, as the law requires.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, the indictment against Katz centers on allegations that he advanced Amendment 44 to the Securities Law, stipulating that companies must repay bond debt to small bondholders before repaying controlling owners, at Ben-Ari’s request.
Katz had also been a suspect in a second, separate corruption investigation pertaining to his time as head of the Israel Aerospace Industries Workers’ Union, a known Likud stronghold, but Mendelblit decided to close the case, citing insufficient evidence.
Responding to Mendelblit’s decision, Katz’s attorneys said that “relying on the generic crime of ‘breach of trust’ to indict him after no evidence of bribery could be established is a fundamental error in legal judgment.”
Katz is one of four cabinet members facing potential criminal charges, together with Netanyahu, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri. Likud MK and former coalition whip David Bitan is also being investigated on possible bribery charges.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.