Stepping forward as the first government minister to demand his resignation, Foreign Affairs and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called on President Moshe Katsav to consider what would most befit the institution of the presidency and step down following Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's decision to indict him.
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter echoed Livni's statements, and called on the president to not only suspend himself temporarily, but to resign.
"The public significance (of the charges) obligates the president to resign and wage his battle outside the president's residence," Dichter concluded.
In a written statement issued Wednesday morning Livni stressed that while from a legal standpoint Katsav is entitled the presumption of innocence, due to the nature and gravity of the accusations against him it would not be fitting for him to fight rape charges from inside the residence of Israel's presidents.
"It is fitting for Katsav to resign," concluded Livni.
Livni is currently the highest-ranking figure to comment on the Katsav scandal, with the majority of cabinet ministers opting to maintain silent on the matter.
Livni had already begun to speak against public corruption in her Monday speech at the Herzliya Conference held by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center.
The general assumption regarding Livni's decision to publicly comment on sensitive affairs regarding corruption scandals is that by doing so she hopes to differentiate herself from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is also facing a criminal investigation, by catapulting herself to a perceived higher moral ground.
Olmert is of course Livni's primary rival within their political party.
By doing so Livni is also aligning herself with the justice system and voicing her support for Attorney General Mazuz, who is also involved in the decision to open a criminal investigation into Olmert's conduct during the privatization of the Leumi Bank and who has said he may limit the PM's authority.
Later Wednesday, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog joined the call, telling the Herzliya Conference that "with all our hopes that the president would be proven innocent, no other solution is possible and I believe the president should resign immediately."
Herzog, the son of former President Haim Herzog, said that "the presidency is very dear to me. I accompanied it as the son of the State of Israel's sixth president and as a public figure, and contrary to those who demand that it is closed, I believe that in a democratic state like Israel this is an extremely important and prestigious institution."
Knesset mulling impeachment
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) has already started collecting the necessary signatures of 20 Knesset members to bring the impeachment motion to the Knesset floor.
Gal-On has so far managed to sign 27 Knesset members on her petition to impeach Katsav. The motion requires an initial 20 signatures to bring the matter to the Knesset assembly for a vote; there it will require the support of 90 MKs to pass.
Among the MKs who signed the petition are: Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Ran Cohen (Meretz), Avigdor Itzchaky (Kadima), Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), Matan Vilnai (Labor), Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and Gal-On (Meretz)
MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said that his committee will convene on Wednesday to discuss the Basic Law regarding the President of the State. The discussion will focus on temporary cessation of exercise of office, removing the president from his office, and electing a president.
According to Ben-Sasson, the Knesset should be able to initiate a move to suspend the president, and "the requirement of 90 Knesset members for a dismissal should be reconsidered. This requirement was ruled on under different circumstances and a different understanding of the institution of the presidency."
Meanwhile the race to the presidency is on and Vice Premier Shimon Peres' associates have already confirmed he will contend, even if the Knesset fails to pass a bill which will change the current election method to an open vote system – one which would guarantee Peres a better chance at winning the presidency.
A senior Labor official told Ynet that Peres stands to win no matter the voting method employed due to the atmosphere brought on by the current president's scandals.
Attila Somfalvi and Ronny Sofer contributed to this report