The conviction of Haim Ramon, former Israeli justice minister, on an indecency charge this week, may lead to a shakeup of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition government and a re-examination of the country’s sexual harassment laws, Israeli politicians said.
Ramon, 56, a close ally of Olmert, was found guilty Wednesday by Tel Aviv’s Magistrate Court for forcibly kissing a 21-year-old soldier at a party six months ago. He faces three years in jail, and is expected to appeal the verdict.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has served as acting justice minister during the trial. Olmert now faces the choice of making Livni’s appointment permanent, and finding a new foreign minister, or reshuffling his cabinet among members of his Kadima Party, the Labor Party and other coalition partners.
Knesset member Arye Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party), who praised the conviction as “a victory” for Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, called for Ramon’s removal from his seat in the Israeli legislature. He said Ramon’s conviction was “another nail in the coffin of the Olmert government.”
The Ramon verdict came a few days after President Moshe Katsav, facing possible charges of rape and other sexual crimes, took a temporary leave of absence.
Yuval Steinitz, a Likud member of Knesset, said the conviction demonstrates a problem with the legal definition of sexual harassment.
The conviction “makes it necessary for the Knesset to consider changes to the law on sexual harassment,” Steinitz said. “It cannot be that a misunderstanding between a man and a woman that cause immense discomfort to one of them should end in conviction.”