Chaim Ramon Convicted Unanimously

Former Justice Minister Chaim Ramon of Kadima was found guilty in the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court of indecent behavior.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 12:00 PM

An unnamed female soldier had accused Ramon of kissing her invasively. Ramon had maintained that the kiss was the natural result of a flirtatious encounter initiated by the soldier herself.

Ramon resigned as Justice Minister when the indictment was served six months ago. He is now likely to resign from politics altogether.

The main question in the public arena until now had been whether Ramon would return to the Justice Ministry if found innocent. It was widely speculated that he would return, even possibly as early as the same day. The question was what he would do if found innocent for lack of evidence or the like. The Prime Minister's Office hinted that in such a case, Ramon would be welcomed back to the Justice Ministry, even if the judges' ruling includes criticism of his behavior.

The case has been accompanied by allegations that the indictment was served only in order to "get Ramon out of the way" for a period of time. Ramon was known to have objected to the appointment of Justice Dorit Beinish as the Supreme Court's Chief Justice - an appointment that required Ramon's consent.

It was widely reported that the female soldier asked Ramon for his phone number, put her arm around Ramon, and showed interest in the encounter in various ways. Despite this, Ramon was convicted of kissing her in a forceful manner. The judges ruled that the soldier's testimony was totally believable, while that of Ramon was "full of contradictions" and "manipulative."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appointed Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit as Acting Justice Minister when Ramon resigned. Three months later, last December, when this temporary appointment expired, Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni assumed the post. Olmert said at the time that if Ramon were to be acquitted, he would return to the post. Following the conviction, Olmert has another ministry to play with in his coalition wranglings. For these reasons, the political tensions and anticipations have been intense.

Some feel that Mazuz's future is also tightly intertwined with this case. An acquittal would have meant that Mazuz's judgement in serving the indictment was impaired, and would certainly have made it difficult for the two to continue to work together. A conviction, on the other hand, is likely to earn Mazuz praise for his "courage" in indicting a powerful politician on such charges.

Sentencing will be handed down on a later date. It is not expected to be harsh, but, as political commentators have said, the public price Ramon has already paid can barely be exceeded.

Political Response
MK Yitzchak Levy of the opposition National Union party said, "There is no question that this is a great blow to Kadima and Prime Minister Olmert. Ramon was one of the great forces behind the 'big bang' [the political shake-up of late 2005 when leading Likud and Labor members joined forces to form Kadima]."

Ramon has served in the Knesset consecutively since 1983. Among his positions were Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and chairman of the Knesset lobby for the partition wall. Ramon served as Health Minister, Interior Minister and Justice Minister. He also served as Chairman of the Histadrut National Labor Union.