Israeli President Cleared, Criticized

Ezer Weizman Israel president
Israel's attorney general closed a criminal case against President Ezer Weizman on Wednesday, citing insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations.

But Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein harshly criticized Weizman's receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from a French millionaire. Weizman, 76 and in failing health, has said he will announce his resignation later this year.

A newspaper report disclosed that Weizman received more than $300,000 from French industrialist Edouard Sarousi between 1988 and 1993, while he was a legislator and Cabinet minister.

Weizman insisted the money was a personal gift. But police uncovered evidence that Weizman tried to promote Sarousi's business interests during that period, triggering an investigation into charges of bribery and malfeasance in office.

"I am very happy with the report, and that the file is closing," Weizman told reporters after the final report was released.

Throughout the investigation, Weizman maintained he had done nothing wrong, saying he had been a victim of poor legal advice in not disclosing the cash gifts.

He said he still intended to step down from his largely ceremonial post by the end of the year, after consultations with Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Weizman, an architect of Israel's 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and a former air force commander, was elected by parliament in 1993 and won a second term in 1998.

The bribery charges fell outside the five-year statute of limitations and could not be pursued, and police did not uncover enough evidence for an indictment for malfeasance in office.

Rubinstein said closing a case because of insufficient evidence should not be interpreted as clearing Weizman. "There was clear impropriety in the receiving of the money," he said in a broadcast statement.

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