Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Case of Haim Ramon

Case of Haim Ramon
Former Justice Minster of Israel - Jerusalem, Israel

This page is dedicated  to the young woman who had the courage speak out against this sex offender and had him prosecuted.

Haim Ramon was originally convicted of violating Israel's sexual harassment law by committing an "indecent act" while he was justice minister, when he forced his tongue into a 21-year-old female soldier of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

At another hearing the court upholds former justice minister's indecent assault conviction, but rules he is not guilty of moral turpitude.

The woman whose complaint led to the conviction of former justice minister Haim Ramon for assault said she would donate her compensation money to a women's rights organization.

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Table of Contents: 
  • Haim Ramon - Bio
  1. Ramon to push 'basic punishment' bill. 'Stop case overload by giving less important civil cases to private lawyers' (06/15/2006)
  2. Ramon accused of sexual harassment (07/25/2006)
  3. Israeli Police: Solid evidence in Haim Ramon sexual harassment case  (08/15/2006)
  4. Kiss Controversy Claims Israeli Official  (08/18/2006)
  5. Minister Ramon to be officially indicted (08/19/2006)
  6. Justice Minister Ramon submits resignation  (08/20/2006)
  7. Justice Minister resigns after Mazuz unveils indecent assault charges (08/20/2006)
  8. Olmert to name Ramon replacement (08/22/2006)
  9. Israeli President's home raided as police examine rape claim (08/23/2006)
  10. President facing police inquiry (08/23/2006)
  11. Ramon Resigns Over Kiss Allegations (08/24/2006)
  12. Legal Affairs: Trials and tribulations  (08/24/2006)
  13. Prosecutor admits wiretapping used in Ramon investigation  (11/03/2006)
  14. Prosecutors move to keep wiretap material from Ramon's lawyers  (11/04/2006)
  15. Exclusive: Rubinstein slams Ramon trial  (11/06/2006)
  16. Witness testifies in Ramon trial  (11/06/2006)
  17. 'H. said Ramon did nothing wrong' (11/08/2006)
  18. Ramon: She flirted, I played along  (11/15/2006)
  19. Ramon claims accuser flirted with him  (11/15/2006)
  20. Ramon on stand: I had no doubt of H.'s intentions (11/17/2006)
  21. 'You're a 56-year-old man and I'm a 21-year-old girl'  (11/22/2006)
  22. Ramon: I am a victim of the prosecution  (11/23/2006)
  23. Prosecutor asks court to 'make a statement' by convicting Ramon of forcibly kissing woman  (11/28/2006)
  24. Livni to head Justice Ministry (11/29/2006)
  25. Israeli FM named as new justice minister  (11/29/2006)
  26. Knesset okays Livni as Justice Minister  (11/29/2006)
  27. PM to set up commission on Ramon investigation  (11/30/2006)
  28. Mazuz on Ramon: Sexual harassment was overlooked (12/04/2006)
  29. Ramon's attorney accuses investigators of obstruction of justice  (12/04/2006)
  30. Mazuz slams outcry against Ramon trial  (12/04/2006)
  31. Ramon: State is guilty of obstructionof justice; trial should be terminated  (12/04/2006)


  1. A victory for Israel's feminists  (01/25/2007) 
  2. Court rules official violated Israel's sex harassment law (02/01/2007) 
  3. Olmert ally convicted of indecent assault  (02/01/2007)
  4. Sex conviction for ex-minister (02/01/2007)  
  5. Report: Prosecution won't ask court to sentence Ramon to jail (02/01/2007) 
  6. Complainant in Ramon case to donate compensation money to charity (03/29/2007)
  7. Former minister convicted of sexual harassment gets light sentence  (03/30/2007)
Ramon to push 'basic punishment' bill. 'Stop case overload by giving less important civil cases to private lawyers'
By Dan Izenberg
Jerusalem Post - June 15, 2006

Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Wednesday that he would bring a controversial amendment to the Penal Code next week, instructing judges to give standard sentences to convicted criminals, for a vote in first reading in the Knesset. 

In his first appearance before the Knesset Law Committee, Ramon told the MKs that the amendment was one of the central goals of his tenure. 

One day earlier, the Bar Association announced that it opposed the bill, which calls for a committee appointed by the justice minister to determine the "basic" punishment that a judge should hand down for every criminal act in the statute book. 

Until now, the law determined only the maximum sentence that a judge may hand down, or, in certain cases such as sex-related crimes, the minimum and maximum sentences. 

Ramon said that the judges had no guidelines for determining what the punishment should be for "regular" instances of any given crime, as opposed to "extreme" instances, where the maximum sentence may be appropriate. 

But according to the Bar Association, "the amendment would cause injury to the rights of defendants. If approved by the Knesset, it will cause a significant and unjustified worsening in the severity of the punishments. Moreover, it constitutes gross interference in the prerogatives of the judicial branch and an expression of no- confidence in the professional abilities of the judges." 

In his presentation to the court, Ramon complained about how slow legal procedures often were, particularly in the investigation of suspects and the decision by the police or state prosecution as to whether or not to indict. According to Justice Ministry figures from 2005 that Ramon presented to the committee, state prosecutors had not begun to work on 9,000 files, dating back to 1998. Some 600 files had been gathering dust on the shelves for more than three years, he said. 

Part of the problem of the case overload could be solved by handing over the less important civil cases to private lawyers, he continued. In 2005, about 16,000 civil cases were opened in the various district attorneys' offices. Ramon said that if one-third of them were farmed out to private lawyers, it would free up 100 state prosecutors for more important cases. 

According to his figures, the number of labor court cases grew by 177 percent between 1999 and 2005, while appeals against income tax department levies had increased by 85%. 

State lawyers also appeared in the small claims courts. "The prosecutors should not be appearing in this court," said Ramon. "An hour of their time is priceless." 

His plan to partially privatize the state prosecution drew fire later in the day, when the national organization of state prosecutors announced that it "totally rejects the intention to privatize the state prosecution. The organization of state prosecutors intends to wage a determined battle against Ramon's plan... The remedy to the heavy burden on the state prosecution is not to destroy it." 

Ramon also announced that he planned to establish a special court in Tel Aviv that would only handle cases of organized crime, including serious economic crimes. 

He told the MKs that the advantage of such a court was that it could hear cases continuously and without lengthy interruptions. It was difficult for regular courts to deal with such matters because it required an expanded bench and it was difficult to find time to bring several judges together to hear cases because of the busy schedule of each one. As a result, Ramon continued, trials dragged on, witnesses evaporated and the state often settled for plea bargain agreements in which the suspects had the upper hand. Instead of deterring others from committing similar crimes, the current system encouraged potential criminals to carry them out, since they knew the price they would have to pay would not be high.  

Haim Ramon
Jewish Virtual Library - November 5, 2006

Haim Ramon, a lawyer by profession, was born in Jaffa in 1950.
Ramon was National Coordinator of the "Youth for Youth" movement and Chairman of the Public Council for Youth Exchanges and was active in the Labor Party's Young Guard, serving as its National Secretary between 1978 and 1984.

He has been a Member of the Knesset since 1983, serving on the Committees for Constitution, Law and Justice (1983-92); State Audit (1984-88); Finance (1984-92); and the House Committee (1988-92).

He also served as Coordinator of the Labour Party in the Finance Committee (1984-88) and was the Chairman of the Labor faction in the Knesset (1988-92).

He served was Minister of Health from July 1992 until his resignation in 1994.

He was elected Chairman of the Histadrut General Federation of Labor in July 1995, in which position he served until his appointment in November 1995 as Minister of the Interior (until June 1996).

From 1996-1999, he served as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

In July 1999, Ramon was appointed Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibilities for Jerusalem, government reform, and liaison between the government and the Knesset. In August 2000 he was also assigned the Interior portfolio. He held these posts until March 2001.

In January 2005, Haim Ramon was appointed Minister without Portfolio.

Haim Ramon served as Minister without Portfolio from January 2005 until November, when Labor resigned from the government. Ramon subsequently announced his resignation from the Labor Party to join Ariel Sharon's new party, Kadima.

In May 2006 Haim Ramon was appointed Minister of Justice.

He is married and the father of two.


Ramon accused of sexual harassment 
By Sheera Claire Frenkel
Jerusalem Post, Israel - July 25, 2006

A young woman has filed a complaint against Justice Minister Haim Ramon claiming that he sexually harassed her. Ramon strongly denied the accusation.

The investigation was launched after the woman came forward claiming that Ramon tried to forcefully kiss her during a public gathering about two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, the court partially lifted a gag order that was issued after the complaint was filed. The court did not allow the press to reveal any personal details of the accuser.

It was reported that the woman initiated contact with Ramon at the gathering and asked to be photographed with him. Later, she claimed that Ramon forcefully tried to kiss her.

Ramon claimed that the woman kissed him and gave him her phone number. He urged the police to summon him to an interrogation so that he could clear his name.

Israel Radio reported that police sources called the incident "borderline" and estimated that the case would soon be closed.


Israeli Police: Solid evidence in Haim Ramon sexual harassment caseBy Jonathan Lis
Haaretz - August 15, 2006

Police said Tuesday that there is sufficient evidence to indict Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon for sexual harassment of a government worker last month.

Police sources told Haaretz that the evidence allegedly indicates that Ramon forcibly kissed the woman employee at her leaving party in the Kiriya, the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv.

According to the sources, the interrogation against Ramon has been completed.

Last week, police organized a meeting between the minister and the complainant via videoconference, as the woman had already left for a trip in Central America and refused to return to Israel for interrogation.

Ramon's interrogators speculated last week that an indictment may be served against the minister.

The complainant's testimony struck detectives as reliable and consistent and they could not identify ulterior motives for her decision to make such serious accusations against Ramon.

A senior police source said, "The investigative team must prove the existence of the situation in which two people - Ramon and the young woman - were alone. In addition, it also must be determined whether the incident falls under the law regarding harassment."


Kiss Controversy Claims Israeli Official
The Associated Press - Friday, August 18, 2006

JERUSALEM -- Israel's justice minister, a key ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced Friday that he will resign, clearing the way for him to stand trial on accusations he forcibly kissed an 18-year-old female soldier.

Haim Ramon's announcement came a day after Israel's attorney general announced plans to indict him, the latest blow to a government politically weakened by the 34-day war against Lebanese guerrillas.

Ramon said in a statement that he had waived his parliamentary immunity and his right to a special hearing with the attorney general. He said he would leave office on Sunday. Ramon asked Attorney General Meni Mazuz to ensure a speedy trial "for personal reasons, but also because of public interest."

Ramon, 56, is suspected of forcibly kissing the soldier during a farewell party at a government office. The incident allegedly took place July 12, the day the war erupted.

The indecent assault charge against Ramon carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, justice officials said.

"I am sure that I will succeed in court. A kiss of two, three seconds, based on the version of the complainant, cannot be turned into a criminal act," Ramon said in a statement.

Mazuz said earlier he had little choice but to proceed.

"When the complainant's testimony is consistent and perceived to be credible, and is supported by other testimony, there is no choice but to file an indictment and bring the case to be settled in court," he said in a statement.

Ramon, a leading member of the ruling Kadima Party, is considered a key Olmert ally and one of the biggest supporters of a plan to unilaterally withdraw from much of the West Bank by 2010.

Ramon is the latest in a string of top Israeli officials placed under investigation.

Israel's State Comptroller is looking into a Jerusalem property deal involving Olmert. President Moshe Katsav has been accused by a former employee of sexual harassment, though no charges have been filed. Tzahi Hanegbi of Kadima, the chairman of parliament's influential Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, was informed earlier this week he would be charged with fraud, bribery and perjury.


Minister Ramon to be officially indicted
By Ronny Sofer
YNET News - August 19, 2006

Attorney General Mazuz says indictment to be filed against justice minister at Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court. Indictment says Ramon sexually harassed young woman by 'placing his lips on her lips and inserting his tongue in her mouth'

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Sunday officially decided to indict Justice Minister Haim Ramon who relinquished his parliamentary immunity to stand trial for sexual harassment offenses.

The indictment, which will be filed at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, accuses Ramon of having sexually harassed a young woman by "placing his lips on her lips and inserting his tongue in her mouth

Ramon sent a letter Sunday to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and to Knesset House Committee Chairman Ruhama Avraham to inform them he was foregoing his parliamentary immunity ahead of his expected trial.

On Sunday, Ramon was expected to resign his post after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to indict him on charges of an indecent act after kissing a young woman who asked to get her picture taken with him at his office.

"I'm certain of my innocence. The court will prove it," Ramon said after being informed of the decision to indict him. He then asked that his trial start as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not yet decided on a replacement for Ramon and the PM's office said he has not yet spoken with possible candidates. According to the procedure, Ramon's resignation will go into effect 48 hours after his letter is submitted.

'I didn't know what to do'

According to the woman involved in the affair, she knew Ramon briefly through her job and came to his office to get a photograph taken with him. After the photo was taken and they were left in the room alone, Ramon attempted to kiss her aggressively and put his tongue in her mouth, the woman charged. She added that she did not resist the minister because she "didn't know what to do."

Later, the woman said, she was crying, and spoke to her direct manager about what happened after her co-workers noticed her tears. The manager was the one who filed the compliment with police.

Close associates of Ramon, however, said the story is baseless and added that during the photo session the woman hugged Ramon and "tried to make a move on him."

The associates say that according to the woman's testimony, she did not leave the office crying, but rather, has a photo taken right after the incident where she's next to Ramon and smiling.

"In addition, according to her testimony, right after the incident she gave him (Ramon) a note where she wrote her phone number," one Ramon associate said.


Justice Minister Ramon submits resignation
By Aviram Zino
YNET News - August 20, 2006

Ramon resigns after attorney general oficially announces Sunday that minister will be indicted for sexual harassment

Justice Minister Haim Ramon submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday, following Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's formal announcement that Ramon will be indicted.

Mazuz on Sunday officially decided to indict

Ramon who relinquished his parliamentary immunity to stand trial for sexual harassment offenses.

The indictment, which will be filed at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, accuses Ramon of having sexually harassed a young woman by "placing his lips on her lips and inserting his tongue in her mouth.

Ramon sent a letter Sunday to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and to Knesset House Committee Chairman Ruhama Avraham to inform them he was foregoing his parliamentary immunity ahead of his expected trial.

On Sunday, Ramon was expected to resign his post after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to indict him on charges of an indecent act after kissing a young woman who asked to get her picture taken with him at his office.

"I'm certain of my innocence. The court will prove it," Ramon said after being informed of the decision to indict him. He then asked that his trial start as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not yet decided on a replacement for Ramon and the PM's office said he has not yet spoken with possible candidates. According to the procedure, Ramon's resignation will go into effect 48 hours after his letter is submitted.

Justice Minister resigns after Mazuz unveils indecent assault charges
By Yuval Yoaz and Mazal Mualem
Haaretz - Augusst 20, 2006

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz Sunday published the text of the indictment he is to file against outgoing Justice Minister Haim Ramon, who is to stand trial for indecent assault on charges of having forcibly kissed a female soldier in a government office.

Ramon submitted his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday morning, and formally informed Mazuz that he was waiving his right to a special hearing.

He also informed Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Knesset House Committee Chairman Ruhama Avraham that he was waiving his parliamentary immunity. Afterwards, Mazuz informed Itizik and Avraham that his decision to file an indictment was final.

"The complainant let go her hold of the defendant, and turned to leave the room," the indictment reads, describing the circumstances of the alleged assault on the 21-year-old soldier.

"The defendant continued to hold her body with one hand and brought her close to him. With his other hand he grasped her cheek, brought his face close to hers, and affixed his lips to hers, placing his tongue in her mouth, and all without her consent."

According to the indictment, she then regained her composure, moved backward and left the room. "The defendant immediately went out behind her."

Among those listed as potential witnesses in the indictment aside from the female soldier who filed the complaint are the prime minister's chief military liaison, Brigadier General Gadi Shamni; the prime minister's bureau chief, Shula Zakan; the head of the police National Fraud Investigations Unit, Commissioner Miri Golan; and the head of the police Investigation and Intelligence Department, Major General Yochanan Danino.

Ramon asks for speedy trial

Ramon Friday asked Mazuz to ensure a speedy trial "for personal reasons, but also because of public interest."

Ramon said that he is certain that he would be successful in court, and that he would prove that a kiss of two, three seconds, based on the complainant's version, cannot be considered an act with criminal intent.

In his interrogation, Ramon said that the accuser was the one who initiated the kiss, which took place July 12, at a social event held at the defense ministry complex in Tel Aviv. He also maintained that the woman had given him her phone number following the kiss.

The justice ministry refused to reveal the details of the investigation, but sources reported that in her interrogation, the complainant convinced the attorneys following the case that her version is reliable. Mazuz himself did not meet with the accuser, but was also convinced that an indictment was in order.

In his official announcement of the indictment on Thursday Mazuz wrote, "at the end of the day, the events of the alleged transgression between Ramon and the complainant spanned only a few seconds, and was not witnessed by anyone. The variations between the two opposing versions boil down to these few seconds. "

"In a case of two conflicting versions," Mazuz continued, "when the accuser's version is consistent, appears believable and is independently supported by other testimonies, there is no other option but to indict and leave the decision up to the court. In a case involving a cabinet minister and a young soldier and an event occurring during work hours inside a government office, a decision must be made. There is considerable public interest in a clear and decisive conclusion."


Olmert to name Ramon replacement 
By Gil Hoffman
Jerusalem Post - August 22, 2006

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will appoint a temporary justice minister on Tuesday to replace Haim Ramon, who resigned after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz indicted him on sexual harassment charges. The temporary minister will be appointed for a three- month period, because Olmert hopes that Ramon will be exonerated by then. 

The two candidates are former justice ministers Tzipi Livni and Meir Sheetrit. Livni has the edge, because she left the post just four months ago and as foreign minister, she would not try to hold onto it after Ramon's case ends. But appointing Sheetrit would help Olmert appease a future political rival.


Israeli President's home raided as police examine rape claim
By Eric Silvers
Jerusalem Post - August 23, 2006 

Israeli police have raided the official residence of President Moshe Katsav and taken away computers and documents in connection with sexual harassment allegations. 

Detectives will question the 60-year-old today under caution after a female former employee accused him of forcing her to have sexual relations with him. 

The President, a Likud politician whose family migrated to Israel from Iran when he was five, could be charged with rape. Police are planning to confront him with the complainant, who is reported to have passed a lie-detector test. They hope to glean more evidence from the computer and papers. 

Israeli media predicted yesterday that Mr Katsav, who has five children, would have to resign if he faces charges. The former Deputy Prime Minister unexpectedly defeated the elder statesman Shimon Peres for the presidency, a largely ceremonial role, in 2000 and his term has one more year to run. He was planning to return to active politics in Likud and perhaps even to run for the premiership. Mr Katsav has claimed his relations with female staff were purely professional. But a second woman has also accused him of sexual harassment. 

His office said he would co-operate with the police. Mr Katsav brought the investigation on himself two months ago by handing the Attorney-General, Men-achem Mazuz, a letter accusing the former employee of tryingto blackmail him into finding her a new job. The police called her in for questioning, at which stage she spelled out her story. 

In a separate case of alleged high-level sexual harassment, Haim Ramon resigned this week as the Justice Minister after he was indicted for allegedly forcing a kiss on a woman soldier who worked in the Prime Minister's office. He was charged with indecent assault and could face up to three years in prison. 

Mr Ramon, a former leading member of the Labour Party, defected to the centre-right Kadima after it was launched by Ariel Sharon last November. He was an outspoken supporter of the Gaza disengagement a year ago and of a future withdrawal from most West Bank settlements - a proposal that Ehud Olmert said had been officially "put on hold" after the Lebanese conflict. 

The Prime Minister is expected to appoint a stand-in Justice Minister so that Mr Ramon can return to his post if he is acquitted. Mr Ramon waived parliamentary immunity and asked for an early trial.
Another of Mr Olmert's allies, Tzahi Hanegbi, is awaiting trial on charges of election bribery. He is alleged to have given government jobs to 80 Likud members, their friends or relatives, when he served as Environment Minister in 2001-03, in return for support in his old party's primaries. 

Mr Olmert is also being investigated following allegations by a reporter that he received a discount worth half a million dollars in return for helping a contractor who sold him a flat. Mr Olmert is said to have used his connections as the city's former mayor to persuade planning authorities to double the amount of floor space the developer was allowed to build on. 

Micha Lindenstrauss, the State Comptroller, is investigating, but denied he had summoned Mr Olmert or his wife, Aliza, for questioning. The case has not yet been sent to the police. He dismissed earlier allegations of irregularities in the sale of another house.

President facing police inquiry
Irish Times - August 23, 2006

MIDDLE EAST: Investigators seized computers and documents from Israeli president Moshe Katsav's residence and will question him about allegations that he coerced a former employee into having sex with him, the police said yesterday. 

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said investigators visited Mr Katsav's Jerusalem home on Monday and "confiscated some computers and documents in order to continue the ongoing investigation". He said members of the investigating team would return today to question the president directly. Mr Katsav has denied the allegations and a spokeswoman said the president was co-operating fully with the investigation. 

The scandal was unlikely to have any significant political effects as Mr Katsav's post is largely ceremonial. However, the allegations against Mr Katsav and the justice minister, Haim Ramon, who resigned on Sunday following allegations that he sexually harassed a female soldier, have darkened the public mood in Israel, where many were already questioning their leaders' conduct of a costly month-long war in Lebanon.


Ramon Resigns Over Kiss Allegations 
by Jeremy Last
Totally Jewish - August 24,  2006

Israeli justice minister Haim Ramon resigned this week over allegations that he had kissed an 18-year-old female soldier on the lips on the day the conflict with Lebanese group Hezbollah began.

Attorney General Menahem Mazuz said that because there were no witnesses and the complaint "boils down to a few seconds" he had no option but to indict.

"In a case involving a Cabinet minister and a young soldier and an event occurring during work hours inside a government office, a decision must be made. There is considerable public interest in a clear and decisive conclusion," Mazuz said.

Ramon, 56, admitted that he did kiss the soldier but claimed it was consensual so did not constitute sexual harassment.

The minister waived the right to parmliamentary immunity against prosecution in order to expediate the trial which he believes will show that he did nothing wrong.

In a statement Ramon said: "I am sure that I will succeed in court. A kiss of two, three seconds, based on the version of the complainant, cannot be turned into a criminal act."

Ramon, a leading member of the ruling Kadima Party, is considered a key ally of prime minister Ehud Olmert and one of the biggest supporters of his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank.

The prime minister is believed to have decided to postopone the implementation of the plan following the conflict in the North.

Legal Affairs: Trials and tribulations 
By Dan Izenberg
THE JERUSALEM POST - August. 24, 2006

Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon had no choice this week but to resign from the cabinet voluntarily and waive his parliamentary immunity.

Even if he had wanted to, he could not have remained in the cabinet once Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz decided to indict him. In the case of former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, the High Court of Justice established a judicial law whereby a minister may not remain in office after he has been indicted, even though his guilt has not yet been established.

Ramon, theoretically, could have resisted the indictment by asking the Knesset to invoke his parliamentary immunity. But although he is a veteran politician with many connections in the Knesset, he could not be certain that the Knesset would have protected him, given the nature of the suspicions against him.

And in any case, however, Ramon could not really have hidden behind the parliamentary procedure available to him because of his position as Minister of Justice. He knew that in that capacity, he was a symbol and model for the rule of law, and that he could not try to outmaneuver the very system he had been charged to uphold.

There was also another reason for Ramon's decision. Had he resisted the indictment by seeking parliamentary immunity, he could, at the very least, have staved off the indictment and remained in the cabinet for one month. During that period, the Justice Ministry would have been paralyzed, since Mazuz had already instructed him not to carry out many of the responsibilities of his office as long as he was under suspicion.

During the interim, on September 14, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak was due to retire and his replacement had to be chosen before then. The only person authorized to convene the Judges' Selection Committee is the Minister of Justice. Last week, the government gazette announced that the committee would meet on September 7 to elect a new president and that the sole candidate for the job was Justice Dorit Beinisch. Unlike other announcements regarding the convening of the committee, which are always signed by the Minister of Justice, Ramon did not sign this one.

Had he remained in office, it is not clear that the meeting would or could have taken place.

Even if it had been held, it would have triggered serious constitutional questions. Either way, it would have created enormous embarrassment for a government that already suffers from embarrassment.

ONE OF the great ironies of Ramon's current plight is that from the moment he assumed office, he complained at every possible occasion about the alleged slowness of the judicial process. At the ceremony in which he took over the Justice Ministry portfolio from his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, Ramon quoted from the saying that another Justice Minister, Yosef Lapid, had plastered all over the ministry's walls: "If there is justice in this world, let it appear immediately."

Last week, when Ramon informed Mazuz that he was waiving both the right to a hearing and his parliamentary immunity, he had only one request. He asked Mazuz to see to it that he would be tried immediately, and that there would be no interruptions in the hearings, so that he would receive a quick verdict.

Ramon has more than one reason to want this. For one thing, as he complained so frequently on behalf of others during his months in office, he knows the torment that defendants suffer from long, drawn-out trials, during which their lives are suspended and they are under a constant cloud of suspicion and mistrust. Because he is so aware of the problem, Ramon does not want to become a victim of it.

But there is another reason as well. Ramon is one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's closest advisers, a person of unusual political acumen and one of the most important and influential figures in the Kadima Party. Olmert has promised Ramon that if he is acquitted, the Justice Ministry portfolio will be his again. But Ramon knows full well that there is a time limit to this promise.

On Wednesday, the prime minister appointed Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit as Acting Justice Minister. But the temporary appointment is only for three months. After that, Olmert will have to make a permanent appointment. Once he does so, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to dislodge the new Justice Minister.

But even though he made the request, Ramon knows full well that Mazuz cannot grant it. The separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government makes such a promise impossible to fulfill. Mazuz has no power over the judicial process. Ramon will now be dependent on the court system, specifically the state of affairs in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, where his trial is to be held.

In a democratic system where all are equal before the law, Ramon cannot expect to get preferential treatment from the court. Just a short while ago, he complained in public about the fact that comedian Hanan Goldblatt will have had to wait 16 months from the day of his indictment in Tel Aviv District Court, on August 21, 2005, until the day when the first witness in his trial is scheduled to take the stand. The court explained that it was too busy with other cases to hold the hearings before then.

Ramon can only hope that he will not suffer anything like the same fate. Had he been able to continue in office instead of getting embroiled in criminal allegations, perhaps, he could have done something so that people like Goldblatt - and perhaps himself - would not face such a predicament.

Prosecutor admits wiretapping used in Ramon investigation
By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent
Haaretz - November 3, 2006

Tel Aviv District Prosecutor Ruth David admitted Thursday that wiretapping was used in the investigation into former justice minister Haim Ramon.

The attorney's admission contradicts a number of previous denials issued by the prosecution.

Four days ago, attorneys representing Ramon in his sexual harassment trial received transcripts of the wiretapping tapes, which, they say, are instrumental in proving Ramon's innocence.

During the investigation, the police tapped the phones of three people: the complainant, her commanding officer, and Shula Zaken, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chief of bureau. The wiretaps were to explore suspicions of obstruction of justice and efforts to convince the complainant not to file charges. However, after no evidence was uncovered during the initial 24 hours, the prosecution decided to stop using the wiretaps.

On October 22, Ramon's attorney Dan Sheinman asked the prosecution for explanations regarding wiretapping conducted during the investigation that had yet to be revealed to the defense. Defense lawyers suspected wiretaps had been employed due to suggestions that appeared in investigative documents.

The prosecution wrote Sheinman a number of letters over the past two weeks denying wiretap use. However, on Tuesday, the prosecution acceded, and gave the material to Ramon's defense team. The former ministers' lawyers, however, said they have not received copies of the court orders allowing the wiretaps, and raised suspicions that they were illegal.

For the past few days, Ramon's attorneys have been considering how to treat the new material. They said that failure to have the material when the complainant testified and was cross-examined infringed on Ramon's rights and ability to defend himself.

The Justice Ministry explained last night that the wiretaps were not part of the Ramon investigation but were part of another probe relating to suspicions of undue pressure and obstruction of justice in the Ramon investigation. Therefore, they said, the response to Ramon's attorneys was not untrue.

"In order to avoid unnecessary arguments during the upcoming evidentiary phase, since we don't feel the recordings carry weight in the case against Haim Ramon, the prosecution decided to transfer the transcripts to defense attorneys," the Justice Ministry stated.

Ramon asked a Tel Aviv court Thursday to allow publication of the complainant's testimony.

Sheinman filed a brief supporting petitions from a number of media outlets seeking to report on the testimony, which was delivered in a closed-door session. Arguing that the complainant's privacy can be safeguarded by publishing the testimony without her Sheinman cited the public interest in publishing the testimony, which, he said, was substantially different from various media reports of the alleged incident.

Sheinman also attacked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the State Prosecutor's Office, which, he said, gave details of the incident to the press, but refused to allow publication of the complainant's testimony.

The prosecution opposes the media petitions, saying publication of the testimony could deter sexual harassment victims from coming forward. It said "such publication would only satisfy voyeuristic drives, which certainly do not trump the complainant's interest or that of potential complainants to maintain their privacy."

Prosecutors move to keep wiretap material from Ramon's lawyers
By Nir Hasson
Haaretz - November 5, 2006

Prosecutors have asked Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to classify some of the material obtained through wiretaps employed during a sexual harassment investigation into former justice minister Haim Ramon, thereby enabling them to refuse to give the material to Ramon's attorneys.

Dichter's office confirmed that such a request had been received, but declined to say whether the minister was likely to accede.

Thus far, the defense has received only a small portion of the transcripts - five conversations, out of more than 100 that were recorded. These include four out of a total of 93 recorded phone calls to or from the complainant, a female soldier, and one out of 21 calls to or from the complainant's commanding officer.

However, Ramon's attorneys claim that even this limited material supports their charge that the prosecution and police were persecuting their client, and they are eager to see the rest. They also believe that the material would aid them in cross-examining the complainant - who has already testified, but could be summoned to the stand again if the judges agree that the new material is relevant.

In addition to the complainant and her commander, police also wiretapped the conversations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office manager, Shula Zaken. None of these conversations have been given to the defense.

The wiretaps were part of an effort to determine whether attempts had been made to obstruct the investigation of Ramon by pressuring the complainant not to file a complaint. However, when the wiretaps failed to produce anything significant during the first 24 hours, they were removed.

Nevertheless, in a letter to Ramon's attorneys, prosecutor Ariela Segal-Anteler denied that these wiretaps existed. Only later did the prosecution admit the lie, claiming that it withheld the information because it considered the wiretaps irrelevant to Ramon's case.

The prosecution continues to deny that the wiretaps were illegal, saying they were authorized by Tel Aviv District Court President Uri Goren. It has promised to give Ramon's attorneys both the police application and Goren's decision in the coming days.

Several uninvolved lawyers who were questioned about the affair said that they did not think the prosecution's lie was sufficient to get the indictment thrown out, and Ramon's lawyers said they do not intend to try, as this would only prolong the trial.

But the uninvolved lawyers also defended the prosecution, saying they were certain that it had acted in good faith, out of a desire to conceal the wiretapping of Olmert's office manager, and had not intended to harm Ramon.

"Certainly, when you hear that the prosecution concealed material, it sounds grave and dramatic, but it could well be that this was an innocent mistake," said one defense attorney, Sasi Gez. "I don't see what the state could gain from hiding this material."

"This happens a lot, that the prosecution thinks certain material is not relevant to the investigation," agreed attorney Avi Heimi. "They may have made a mistake, but there were no evil intentions here."

Ramon's trial resumes on Monday.

Exclusive: Rubinstein slams Ramon trial
By Haviv Retting
The Jerusalem Post - November 6, 2006 

The ongoing trial of former justice minister Haim Ramon for alleged sexual misconduct is an example of blatant and systematic "abuse of authority" by the State Attorney's Office that calls into question the very trustworthiness of Israel's legal system, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya president Amnon Rubinstein told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

"To my knowledge, [the case] marks the first time the State Attorney's Office has lied to attorneys," Rubinstein said, referring to the office's false claim early in the investigation that it had not carried out secret wiretaps.

Not only was the false claim itself a criminal act, according to Rubinstein, but the way prosecutors obtained "testimony from the plaintiff has a criminal aspect to it. They [reportedly] told [the plaintiff], 'If you don't lodge a complaint, there will be a trial held against you.' This had no basis in reality! It's an abuse of authority."

The final result, Rubinstein said, was the "expulsion of an Israeli justice minister. And," he added, "it's the second time. The first was [Yaakov] Neeman."

In 1996, Neeman was charged with submitting a perjured court affidavit relating to witness Martin Brown in the Aryeh Deri case. The prosecutors never so much as interviewed Brown, and all that was wrong with Neeman's document was a date - an error that could result from a mere typo.

The charges were summarily and ignominiously tossed out of court, Neeman was unable to reassume his office.

Rubinstein, who is perhaps the foremost authority on Israeli constitutional law, said the consequences of such conduct on the part of the highest law-enforcement authorities in the country were devastating to the proper functioning of the state.

"People are too frightened to even speak about this," he said. "Over the past 20 years, every single prime minister has been the target of investigation... and despite all the noise from the State Attorney's Office, there wasn't a single conviction. You call in all these prime ministers for investigation, and the investigation is publicized all over the world, and there are no [time] limits to these investigations."

One example was "the investigation of [former prime minister] Bibi [Netanyahu]" in the Amedi affair, he said. "As an MK, I asked what crime [Netanyahu] was suspected of committing. I asked, and nobody could answer it. What was the crime with Amedi, that he hired someone he knew when he was prime minister to transport furniture? What's wrong with that? I'm glad I defended him then, even though I wasn't in his political camp."

So dysfunctional was the behavior of the State Attorney's Office in the Ramon affair, Rubinstein said, that the entire legal system must be reexamined to ensure that such conduct does not recur. "This is abuse of power," he declared, quoting historian Lord Acton's maxim that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Rubinstein gave three recommendations to end the systematic "abuse" he said was evidenced in the Ramon affair.

"First, the trial against Haim Ramon must be ended." For Rubinstein, the trial gives the impression that "it's a political witch-hunt," and that "Israel is an insane asylum: While witch-hunts aren't conducted by politicians against government officials, as in some backward countries, they are conducted by government officials against politicians!

"Second," he continued, "there must be an investigation of the State Attorney's Office and the police." Such an investigation could not be conducted by any existing branch of the law-enforcement system, including the Police Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry, he said.

"We need a special prosecutor, as in the United States. When you can't trust the system, you have to bring someone in from the outside. The government should establish this specially for this case," he said.

Rubinstein's third recommendation is for the "establishment of a committee of legal experts to reexamine the entire judicial system." Many problematic aspects of the system had to be reviewed, such as "an attorney-general who is [also] the prosecutor-general, the legal adviser to the government, oversees the State Attorney's Office and gives instructions to the police."

While he believes Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz is an "honest and wise" man, the nature of his office "has to be examined."

So wary is Rubinstein of interference by law-enforcement authorities in such reforms that he even suggested bringing in a legal expert from abroad to oversee the committee, since only a foreigner would be immune to police investigation.

After all, "The government is frightened of the State Attorney's Office, and even of its own shadow," he said.

Rubinstein also proposed three reforms that could be implemented immediately.

"For all criminal cases, I would have the trial begin only after a hearing is held for the defendant," he said, repeating a recommendation he unsuccessfully tried to pass as a legislator. It was rejected following Finance Ministry reservations over the cost of the measure.

"More importantly," he said, "I would make leaking the details of an investigation to the media a criminal offense."

And finally, Rubinstein recommended "limiting the length of an investigation, both the questioning at the police station during the day and the overall length of a secret investigation. That way there won't be a situation in which, for his kiss, Haim Ramon is investigated in the international spotlight for seven hours at the police station; or [Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor] Lieberman being investigated for seven years without even knowing when it will end."

Those elements of Israel's legal system that were turning so patently abusive, Rubinstein said, were "all Israeli inventions. The Israeli legal system created things that don't exist anywhere else in the world."

For example, "In the entire world, there are no indictable offenses that don't get a hearing. In the United States there's a grand jury; in England a committing magistrate; in France a judge investigator," he said. Only in Israel, "One person decides, and one more sends to prison."

While he firmly believes Israel is blessed with "very high-quality" judges, Rubinstein's comparison of Israel's law-enforcement agencies with those abroad has convinced him that "if Israel were to join the European Union, the European Court for Human Rights would cancel a large portion of Israel's criminal law."

"We were always proud of our judicial system. In the past few years, however, I'm not proud of it."

Witness testifies in Ramon trial
By Vered Luvitch
Ynet News - November 6, 2006

Witness in former justice minister's trial recounts moments with complainant following alleged kiss. `She said Ramon kissed her. She was worked up, said she was shaking'

Ronit Lugasi, a stenographer at the prime ministers office, testified Monday in favor of the plaintiff in the case against Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon.

Testimonies began following the court's decision to have an open trial.

"I went into the prime minister's military secretary's room with her (A'), we closed the door, and she said to me, `I have to tell you something, you are the first person I've told'," Lugasi testified.

"I told her `calm down', I was afraid it was about a soldier, an acquaintance of mine. She told me that she asked him (Ramon) to take a picture with her. She said that they had their picture taken in the bureau chief's room, and that after the soldier photographing them left the room, Ramon gave her a kiss," Lugasi continued.

"I asked her `what kind of kiss' and she said he gave her a kiss with the tongue. She kept saying `I don't understand how this happened to me, do you get it? Do you get it?'. I gave her water. She was worked up and told me she was shaking. She kept saying she wanted me to swear not to tell anyone and that she only told me," Lugasi said.

'Mistakes where made innocently'

"We went downstairs, and sat on the steps at the entry to the building. I can't elaborate on the details of the conversation, but the first thing she told me was that she didn't want to press charges, and that she wanted to travel abroad with a clear mind," Lugasi explained.

"I told her she had to make it clear to the minister that she didn't like what he did, I told her to consult with Gadi Shemani, the prime minister's military secretary, but she said no way, she didn't want to tell him and have him make a noise because of it. I asked her `What did you do after the kiss?' and she said that she left the room and that's when I arrived." Lugasi concluded.

The attorney general submitted his opinion on the bugging and the attorney's office's handling of the case Monday. He pointed out that mistakes where made "innocently".

It was reported Sunday that in a conversation between the attorney's office and the complainant's commander before the trial began, Lugasi said that the complainant told her she had given her phone number to Ramon after the kiss with the purpose of working for him when she returned from abroad.

Lugasi also said that she didn't tell the police because she only remembered that after reading in the newspaper that the complainant had given her phone number to Ramon. The clash in the case is that the complainant claims Ramon asked for her telephone number, while Ramon claims she gave it to him.

'H. said Ramon did nothing wrong'
Jerusalem Post - November 8, 2006

Sima Galili, a secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, told Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Wednesday that former justice minister Haim Ramon's accuser had told Ramon that she couldn't resist him and had invited him to join her on a trip to Costa Rica.

Galili, who was the only one present for the conversation, said in her testimony that she was shocked to hear H. speaking that way to Ramon. In her words, she knew H. to be free with her speech, but never around ministers.

According to Israel Radio, Galili added that she had seen "no tears" in H.'s eyes after Ramon allegedly kissed her.

The court also heard the testimony of Shula Zaken, the prime minister's bureau chief, who said that Ramon's accuser had told her the minister hadn't hurt her or done anything wrong.

Zaken said the complainant, H., had only told her about the incident, in which Ramon allegedly kissed the 21-year-old female soldier by force, a week after the fact.

She said H. had insisted she didn't want to file a complaint, but had entreated Zaken to speak to the justice minister and convince him not to do the same to other women.

According to Zaken, H. said she would not reveal Ramon's identity if she were questioned by police.

Zaken told the court that after filing the complaint, H. came to her in great agitation, saying that she had had no choice but to complain according to army regulations.

About Ramon, Zaken said the minister was "admired" among women, and that he acted like a "mischievous boy" and couldn't keep his distance from his subordinates.

The judge presiding over the discussion said that there was no discrepancy between the indictment sheet and accuser's testimony.

Earlier this week, another co-worker of H.'s at the Prime Minister's Office also said H. had told her she had no intention of filing a complaint against Ramon.

Ramon: She flirted, I played along
by Vered Luvitch
YNet News - November 15, 2006

Former justice minister takes stand at his trial for first time, describes chain of events leading up to controversial kiss with complainant

Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon, who currently stands trial for sexual harassment charges, testified in his trial Wednesday for the first time.

Ramon said that the complainant, "Came on to me, flirted with me and even said she'd give up her boyfriend in order that I come to Costa

Rica with her."

The former minister also described the kiss in question: "She approaches me, stands close, 15-20 centimeters. I'm taller than her... she raised her head and gave me that inviting smile. I bow my head down to her and she doesn't flinch – on the contrary. We kiss a spontaneous, brief kiss that lasts two or three seconds, and she cooperates all along."

"I did not put my tongue in her mouth, I did not intend to put my tongue in her mouth. I was certain she wanted the kiss, like she wanted everything else up to this point," he added.

Ramon said that he was not surprised by the complainant's behavior. "It's not a surprise for me that women, even in such ages, make a move at me. It's not unusual. I was not amazed by what went on," he explained. Ramon also admitted that he was flattered by the complainant's behavior, saying that any man would have probably felt the same.

However, he added, "I played along with her although according to the protocol I should have acted differently."

Prior to Ramon, Chief Superintendent Eran Kamin, who headed the investigation in the case, took the stand. He claimed that during his interrogation Ramon provided the police with contradicting reports about his actions.

Ramon claims accuser flirted with him
The Jerusalem Post - November 15, 2006

Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon testified in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Wednesday that he willingly went along with the advances of Heh, the woman who accused him of forcibly kissing her, but that she took the initiative and surprised him with her boldness.

"I didn't reject her since I played a part in the situation," said Ramon. "Even so, I never experienced flirtation so blunt and daring and it surprised me."

Ramon took the stand at his trial and had the opportunity for the first time since the allegation surfaced in July to publicly tell his side of the story.

He accused the police, and particularly Dep.-Cmdr. Miri Golan, head of the police investigating team, of deliberately targeting him from the start.

"I have never been in a police interrogation," said Ramon. "Towards the end of it, they showed me a picture [which was taken after the controversial kiss]. I won't forget this scene for the rest of my life. The picture showed her smiling. I asked them why they didn't close the file immediately. Golan, who sat across from me, said, 'Don't you see that the smile is frozen and her eyes are brimming [with tears?]' That's when I understood. If the picture didn't convince them, then they had already decided that the girl was salt-of-the-earth and I'm garbage and shit that has to be thrown into prison."

Ramon also lost his temper at another point in his testimony, when he described the kiss itself.

"I held the plaintiff with my right hand for the picture, as I hold everyone who takes a picture with me," he said. "She hugged me with both arms and put her head on my chest. My hand was in my pocket and she pushed her hand in under mine. As you can see in the picture, I'm embarrassed, but I cooperated. Many women have had their pictures taken with me and I don't remember any of them doing it that way. And it wasn't a picture that took three seconds, but 10 seconds, with her asking for a second photo."

After the photos, Ramon entered the room of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chief of staff, Yoram Turbovich.

"The plaintiff said something to me that I didn't hear, but assumed was a continuation of the flirtation," he continued. "Then she came up to me, standing only 10 to 20 centimeters away and raised her head with an inviting expression. I lowered my face to hers and she wasn't frightened away. Then we kissed for no more than two or three seconds. She cooperated with the kiss. I didn't mean to - and didn't - put my tongue in her mouth, but my mouth may have been slightly open and my tongue may have touched her lips."

Ramon then shouted, "And for this I'm standing trial, for this sentence in her testimony that during the kiss, she suddenly realized what had happened and recoiled."

"I have no doubt that the kiss was all part of the stream of events," said Ramon. "It didn't feel out of sequence. That's how I felt. There wasn't the slightest or most minute indication that she resisted or opposed it. It was obvious that this was a stolen kiss, a continuation of the flirting, like the blink of an eye, and it didn't continue."

Later, Ramon said, "The idea that I would touch a woman if I thought she didn't want it is the most horrible thought for me."

He added that after the kiss, Heh ran after him and slipped a piece of paper into his hand with her cell phone number, the cell phone she took with her on her trip to South America.

Ramon acknowledged that during the incident with Heh, he did not behave with the decorum appropriate to his position.

"It's true, I wasn't behaving like a minister," he said. "I'm very open and informal. I play soccer with my drivers. I speak frankly and curse openly. I assume that if someone had seen me then, it would have seemed to him as though my behavior wasn't appropriate."


Ramon on stand: I had no doubt of H.'s intentions
By Nir Hasson
Haaretz - November 17, 2006

Former justice minister Haim Ramon took the stand yesterday to respond to the sexual harassment charges against him, telling the court that he had no way of knowing that the complainant objected to being kissed.

He also criticized the conduct of the police investigation against him.

Ramon described his encounter with the complainant, H., as a lengthy flirtation, saying that she had made sexually suggestive remarks.

"And then, with the same smiling manner and personal charm, she told me: 'Minister, I'm being demobilized [from the army] and going traveling ... I want you to travel with me to Costa Rica.' It was clear to me that the complainant was starting up with me. It was clear that she was flirting with me," Ramon told the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.

Moreover, Ramon was photographed with the complainant, at her request, prior to the kiss, and the way she posed for the picture also led him to believe that she was flirting, he said. "She is hugging me with both hands and pressing her entire chest against me. She is leaning her head on my shoulder and chest. You have to remember that we have no [prior] acquaintance. My hand is in my pocket. She pushes her hand under my hand. You'll see in the picture that I'm a bit embarrassed, but I cooperate. In my capacity as a minister, many dozens of women have been photographed with me as a souvenir. I can't remember anyone being photographed with me in a similar pose. For me, this was the final confirmation of the fact that she was flirting with me. We stood for 10 seconds in this pose, and she was smiling and happy.

"It's not surprising to me when women and girls of this age start up with me," he continued. "It's not unusual for me. I've had significant relationships with young girls of this age."

Ramon, who is 56, acknowledged that he "cooperated" in the flirtation, but insisted that "throughout, she initiated and I acquiesced. When she hugged me and pressed against me, I didn't tell her 'excuse me, that's not nice.' I accepted it. For any man, when a young, attractive girl acts like this, it's flattering."

Regarding the kiss itself, Ramon said that when H. approached him, "my feeling was that she was coming to continue what had happened thus far." She "gets very close, 10 or 20 centimeters, raises her head to me, smiles at me. A kind of inviting glance. I bend my head to her and she doesn't recoil; on the contrary. Then we kiss spontaneously, briefly, for two or three seconds, on the lips, and she cooperates with the kiss the whole way, without giving any signs of withdrawal. It could be that my mouth was open a bit. Perhaps my tongue touched her lips. I did not insert my tongue in her mouth."

"When the kiss ends, we leave the room together," he continued. "She gives me her phone number. I have no doubt that she wants to be in touch with me."

"For 30 years, I've been in public positions, and no stain has ever clung to me," he added. "My name wasn't mentioned in state comptroller's reports. There was never even gossip accusing me of sexual harassment. If I'd had even a shadow of a doubt [about her intentions], would I have touched her, and entered this crazy nightmare?"

Ramon also accused the police of having made up their minds in advance to indict him and being unwilling to listen to any contrary testimony. This determination, he said, was clearly evidenced by the decision to send two policemen to Central America to question H.

"A police force that doesn't send people to Cyprus to investigate drug deals, because it has no money, a police force whose patrol cars are idled for months due to lack of funds, sends two policemen [abroad] over a fleeting kiss," he said. "It's clear that if they send two policemen to Guatemala, they'll return with results. Afterward, I learned that they slept in the same hotel with the complainant and her friend for four days."

At the start of the session, the judges announced that they were rejecting the media's request for permission to publish the complainant's testimony, in order to protect her privacy.

'You're a 56-year-old man and I'm a 21-year-old girl'
By Gidi Weitz
Haaretz - November 22, 2006

"So you tell me, you're acting as if you weren't in that room. Was I the only one in that room? How can you, a trusted figure in the State of Israel, look me in the eyes and tell me that in that room you didn't kiss me. Tell me, are you sane? I mean, how can you say such a thing?" H., an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, hurled the words at former Justice Minister Haim Ramon during their police-arranged meeting.

Afterward, H. began to weep. She looked straight at Ramon and said: "How can you look me in the eyes and say that?" Ramon responded sharply: "I'm looking you in the eyes because you are not telling the truth and I'll tell you when it happened. Don't cry, you, because I've been crying for three weeks now over your fabrication about me. I, my children, my partner - we've all been living this nightmare that you put us into, for what purpose I don't know, but I'm not impressed by any tears of yours or any show you put on."

At ten o'clock one night in early August, Ramon came to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where Brigadier General Miri Golan, commander of the National Police Fraud Investigation Unit, was tensely awaiting him. In faraway Guatemala, in a remote shopping center, at 2 P.M. local time, H. was sitting with the head of the investigation team, Chief Superintendent Eran Kamin, who had flown in from Israel with another detective to hold a video-conference encounter between H. and Ramon.

In court testimony last week, Golan said: "I must note that the confrontation was very tough, in terms of how it was handled for the complainant, for the detectives and for me. I've been an investigator for some time, I've been in lots of situations and this was one of the toughest." Ramon's attorney, Dan Scheinman, claimed in the cross-examination that Ramon had agreed to this confrontation only under protest and had wanted it to be face-to-face. Golan confirmed this, replying that she had allowed Ramon to "do whatever he wished" in the confrontation. Had it been held in person, as he had requested, "I wouldn't have allowed it to proceed the way it did," Golan said.

"Perhaps this method ought to be more widely adopted in sexual harassment investigations," Golan ventured. Ramon blurted out: "They experimented on me. There's a limit to how much I can take... she was shouting at me in the confrontation." The head of the panel of judges hearing the case, Judge Hayuta Cohen, warned Ramon: "Pretty soon I'll believe that what's been said about you is true. You need to keep your cool. There can be no shouting in court." Ramon commented on Golan's testimony, "There's a limit to how much a person can take, how many lies."

A transcript of the confrontation obtained by Haaretz this week presents a difficult and disturbing dialogue between the former minister of justice and the head of the national fraud unit, during which Ramon had harsh words for Golan about the way the investigation against him was being run. The transcript also points up significant differences in the versions recounted by Ramon and H. of the brief episode between them. Only part of the nearly 80-page transcript is given here, with maximum effort to ensure symmetry between the parties.

Anyone searching for conspiracy behind the complainant's motivation will find an independent and determined young woman who maintained her version of events, versus a suspect who repeatedly sought to undermine her credibility. In court last week Ramon was heard to say that Judge Sarah Sirota, who viewed the confrontation, was convinced that it was carried out in a one-sided manner, to his detriment. The prosecution is confident that the confrontation will serve as decisive evidence in strengthening H.'s testimony.

An indictment was issued a few weeks after the confrontation. It stated that at 7:45 P.M. on July 12 (shortly before the Israeli cabinet met and approved the war in Lebanon), H., who was about to be discharged from the IDF, asked Ramon to be photographed with her as a souvenir, as she had done with other ministers and senior officials with whom she had worked. After he agreed, she went to get a camera and Ramon entered an empty office in the Prime Minister's Bureau. H. returned with the camera and asked a driver from the bureau, a soldier named Yaniv, to photograph them together. H. and Yaniv entered the office, where Yaniv took two pictures of them embracing and then he left the room.

The indictment says that H. then "released her grip on the accused and turned to leave the room." Ramon continued to hold her body with one hand and pulled her close to him. "With the fingers of his other hand, he held her cheek, brought his face close to her and planted his lips on hers, while inserting his tongue in her mouth, all without her consent. H. pulled away, moved back and left the room. The accused went out right after her."

The flirtation

In the transcript, H. says to Ramon: "I told you - 'To Mexico, Costa Rica' and you told me, like, that you were once in Costa Rica. I asked you if you were coming with me or something like that, it was all just joking, there was nothing serious about it and you knew it, too. All of it, that whole conversation was in humor, and after it I asked you to have your picture taken."

Investigator: "In the course of the conversation, did the minister touch you? Did he say something to you?"

H.: "During the conversation, I think, after we talked about Costa Rica and about Mexico, then you, you held my face like this. I can even show you. I was sitting like this, you were standing here in front of me... You leaned over me. You made this gesture to me, like, oh sweetheart. That's what happened."

At this point Ramon asks the interrogators to ask H. a series of questions:

Ramon: "You remember that I came in, were you sitting and what were you doing?"

H. (Pause): "Yes, I was sitting and talking with Sima (the prime minister's secretary)."

Ramon: "And what comment did you make?"

H.: "I think that, you came in, maybe I suggested that you take the seat or something like that, and I got up."

Ramon: "You didn't say anything?"

H.: "I don't remember saying anything."

Ramon: "Then I'd like to remind you. I remembered in my interrogation that you made a very sexist [sic] comment. I didn't remember what - the police told me... that you got up and said that you couldn't resist me. I remembered the tone... I'll remind you of something else, when I asked you where you were traveling, to Costa Rica, you remember you told me, 'I'm ready to give up on [going with] my girl friend, as long as you come with me,' and I said, 'I can't.'"

H.: "I don't remember saying that."

Ramon: "Then I'll remind you, and afterward you said that you were ready to shorten your stay. We barely know each other. I presume that you don't say to everyone that you can't resist him and that afterwards, and not as a joke and certainly not to a cabinet minister, you don't suggest that he travel with you to Costa Rica. You don't joke with him like that..."

H. insisted that she did not remember saying the words quoted by Ramon. "I don't remember making any sexist [sic] remark to you, but if I did say something, then it was all in fun. This whole conversation, there was nothing provocative about it," she said, elaborating on her intentions: "I wanted a souvenir with the justice minister... You think a [female] IDF officer would stand before a minister and start flirting with him, in front of lots of people, while security consultations are going on in the room?"

Ramon: "Unfortunately, that's what you did."

H.: "I didn't, but maybe you got that impression."

Ramon: "Pardon me, when a minister comes and I hear a sexist [sic] comment... and afterward she flirts with him and says, come with me to Costa Rica.... Even if it was said in jest it's very strange, and afterwards I do this to you and that to you and you still want your picture taken with me...."

H.: "Who would believe that after you did this to me you would grab me in the room and kiss me when you have a cabinet meeting in a few minutes.... Had I believed for one moment that's what would happen in the room, I never, never would have asked to take a picture with you. Never."

Ramon: "That's for certain and that's why I'm saying that you're not telling the truth, because it's inconceivable that an Israeli cabinet minister, two minutes before he has to meet with the prime minister, that what he has in mind is pouncing on you...."

The confrontation continued, with Ramon repeatedly remarking on the "sexist tone" in which he says the complainant spoke to him. H. held firm in saying that the encounter between them was just humorous and innocent.

The pictures

The police file for the Ramon case contains many photographs: In most of them, H. appears smiling next to people such as Shaul Mofaz, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Dan Halutz. The picture of H. with Ramon, taken before the kiss, is the major point of dispute at this stage of the confrontation.

Ramon: "Have you seen the picture of us?"

H.: "Yes, of course I've seen it."

Ramon: "You saw how you're wrapping both arms around me and embracing me with both arms... clinging to me and pressing your chest to me, to my body. You're doing all these things. Is this a routine picture, is that how you were photographed with all the ministers, is that how you make sure you're photographed with people you don't know?"

H.: "First of all yes, there are other people with whom I had my picture taken, there are other people with whom I had my picture taken this way and I gave those pictures to the police, too, all the pictures with all the ministers. Some of the people are also photographed that way. Second, there's a difference between a pose for the camera, which is for the picture alone, and everything that you're describing here. There was nothing more to it, I wasn't trying to send any kind of message to you that whole time, from the moment you came in the office until the moment you did what you did. I really think that if you had this time, then I don't know, like, I don't have anything to say, I don't. I was in shock. You know what I mean by shocked? Shocked. I think that yes, we had our picture taken in this pose, but when we entered the room, it was you who came and pressed me to you. I wasn't the one who came and embraced you.... You're the one who pressed me close."

Ramon: "I think the picture speaks for itself. I'm hugging you with one arm and you're grabbing me. Not of your own free will? Look, you can't separate your chest from my chest. You're pressing your chest on me of your own will and look at your arms, how you're wrapping them around my body. And pressing all of your body..."

Ramon asks H. directly: "If that's not inviting behavior, then explain to me, what is inviting behavior?"

H.: "I don't have to explain to you what inviting behavior is, because it's my private life and I won't tell you about my relationships, that's none of your business. But I'll tell you what, you're the one in this picture, you're the one who pressed me to you. Yes, I embraced you, but I'll tell you again, it was only for the picture. There was nothing to it beyond that, it was solely for the pose for the picture. In this picture you also see that you're leaning over me, It's not just me leaning over you.... No one gave you the right to hold my face after Yaniv left the room... and kiss me."

A technical problem interrupts the confrontation for a few seconds, after which H. continues: "I'm not about to tell you how I do or don't flirt with guys, but I just want to remind you, with all due respect, that you're a 56-year-old man and I'm a 21-year-old girl. I have no interest in a relationship with a man who's 56, certainly not the way you describe. Everything was in fun. There was no sexual message in it. No sexual message."

Ramon: "I'm sure that you don't usually tell a 56-year-old man, or any other man, that you can't resist him and that you want to travel with him to Costa Rica and that you don't kid around with 56-year-old men.... If I were to tell you about a girl who greets a 56-year-old man by saying, 'I can't resist you' and then suggests that he travel with her and then he calls her sweetheart and then she has her picture taken with him in this way, you'd say there was an attempt at a pickup here."

Golan then asks H. to address the claim that she was seducing Ramon.

H: "I'll tell you again, there was nothing inviting about it. Ask anyone in the office, I'm an outgoing person, I talk, I'm allowed, it's my right. Between that and what you did in the room afterwards there's a very big difference, very big.... You're really exaggerating our conversation, it wasn't so flirtatious.... I didn't flirt with you.... And you say that I made up a story? You tell me, weren't you, like, in that room?

At this point H. starts crying and Ramon responds: "I'm not impressed by any of your tears or by any show you put on."

Golan: "I'm not certain, Mr. Ramon, that you need to hurt...."

Ramon: "She said about me, and you didn't hasten to defend me, she questioned whether I'm sane. You didn't hear that? You didn't hear that, Madam Brigadier General Miri?.... Why aren't you defending my honor?"

At this point the exchanges between H. and Ramon become personal and insulting. They continually interrupt one another, and the investigators, who fear they've lost control over the confrontation, urge them, especially Ramon, to stop. Ramon complains that the confrontation is not taking place face-to-face "in normal conditions." H. replies assertively: "There's no reason I should stop my life because of what you did."

Ramon: "Yes, you want to destroy my life because of all kinds of things that we'll be getting to."

H.: "Next time, think twice before you do what you do."

Ramon: "No, you think twice before you go making false accusations."

Golan: "H., are you making false accusations?"

H.: "False accusations? Aren't you ashamed? Tell me. Look at yourself, the justice minister of the State of Israel, standing there and lying and, like, looking me in the eyes and lying. Aren't you ashamed?"

Ramon: "This girl is lying unabashedly. I ask that she answer the question. I understand that she, she has no, that she has to invent things, that she has a problem...."

The kiss

Golan asks H. to return to the description of the kiss that H. claims Ramon forced on her immediately after the two photographs were taken.

H.: "We went into the room and I don't remember exactly where Yaniv came from. I asked him to take our picture. We stood embracing and Yaniv took two pictures and left the room very quickly, as if something happened outside... The second Yaniv left the minister grabbed me, and did this to me on the face." In the video, she is seen demonstrating how "he bent over me and kissed me. It was exactly maybe five seconds, even less. I moved away from him, I looked at him, I went out first. I don't know if you came out after me or if you stayed a little more in the room, I don't remember, but we went out and then Sima... said something, 'Come, I'll take another picture of you two...'"

Ramon: "You claim I kissed you. Did you resist?"

H.: "I was in shock, I couldn't move."

Ramon: "Which means I couldn't understand that you were resisting."

H.: "I was in shock."

Ramon: "I couldn't realize that you were resisting."

H.: "I didn't do anything. I didn't budge. I was frozen."

Ramon: "In other words, I, I don't...."

H.: "You, you know what you want."

Ramon: "No, no."

Eran Kamin: "Minister Ramon, with all due respect, she can't know what you understood. She can only know what she understood."

H.: "... I know that at that moment I couldn't move, not that it was such a long time that I had time to resist or to go crazy, and besides, there was a security consultation going outside... I was frozen..."

Ramon: "In the police interrogation it was said that I forcibly inserted my tongue. When something is done by force, someone is resisting."

H.: "I felt your tongue, it was like what, what, like what is this?"

Ramon: "I'm asking you for the fourth time, was there any act by which you expressed any outward, not inner, act of resistance?"

H.: "The fact that I moved away from you to stop the kiss, I think that's one act."

Ramon: "If I sum up what you're saying, the second that I realized you didn't want it, the kiss was immediately stopped."

H.: "You kissed me, there's not much more to it. What did you want, for me to slap you?"

The debate over the intensity of the resistance to the kiss continues. The detectives wonder why Ramon insists on questioning H. about something he says did not happen. Ramon says he is trying to call into question H.'s credibility.

H.: "You're asking if I went wild? I didn't go wild there."

Ramon: "No, I'm not asking if you went wild."

H.: "And I didn't, I didn't hit you."

Ramon: "If you had pushed me...."

H.: "You're not letting me speak. You asked a question. No, I didn't go wild there, I didn't hit you, but it was all a matter of a few seconds. As soon as I felt your tongue I moved back, yes."

The father

From the transcript it sometimes seems as if Ramon seized control of the confrontation. H. frequently entreats Ramon to let her finish what she has to say. Golan and the investigators tell Ramon he is making it difficult for them to manage the confrontation and that he is "making speeches to the nation." Ramon occasionally gets angry when he thinks the confrontation is not being handled impartially. "I propose a confrontation between me and [H.], not me and you," he tells Golan.

After Ramon's critical remarks about the investigation, Kamin tells him: "The police have no religion, race or color, we're not after you or H., we're only after the truth.... We're doing this in a professional manner and I'd appreciate it if you gave us credit." Ramon responds: "I heard what you said and what I have to say about it I won't say in the context of this confrontation."

The height of the confrontation between Ramon and the investigators took place when Ramon, ready with a packet of documents, decided to question H. about an interview that her father gave to a newspaper. H. said that she had not shared the details of the incident with her father and that she cannot be questioned on what he did or did not say. Nonetheless, Ramon continued to question H. about things her father said. Golan asked him to stop.

Golan: "[Her father] has nothing to do with this confrontation right now."

Ramon: "He has a lot to do with the whole episode.... If she claims I'm not telling the truth, and her father also turns out to not be telling the truth, then there's a method, that's all..."

Golan: "But Mr. Ramon, there's a difference. I think that this is not respectable. Let's not turn this into a debate over the manner of the investigation."

Ramon: "Not respectable... the manner of the investigation, that's what not respectable. Now I'll continue."

Golan: "Okay, I don't want to argue...."

Ramon: "Neither do I, neither do I."

Golan: "... with you and descend to this level."

Ramon: "I don't want to arrive at your level, Madam Golan."

Golan: "Okay, I don't know what level this is, that you insult me unnecessarily."

Ramon: "Then I'm asking, I'm asking."

Golan: "But we'll continue."

Ramon: "Madam is continuously insulting me all the time. All the time insulting me, all the time."

Golan: "How am I insulting you, sir?"

Ramon: "All the time, in the way you're running the investigation."

Golan: "I think that you are slandering me, sir."

Ramon: "I think that you are not only slandering me, you're giving me a bad name throughout the country."

Golan: If you're going to fight with me personally then I'm very sorry."

Ramon: "I'm very sorry that this matter is being handled in a video conference and not in a confrontation here and now. That should also make you think."

Kamin: "Minister Ramon, but the purpose of this thing is to confront, not to give a speech."

Ramon: "Fine, I didn't give a speech."

The last picture

After this argument the confrontation moves on to the third picture of Ramon and H., which according to the complainant was taken after the kiss and according to the defense was taken before it.

Ramon describes the picture to H.: "You look very cheerful, you look fine, you're pressing your shoulder against me, there is no space between us. And you're totally smiling. Is this the picture of someone in shock, who just went through a difficult and traumatic event?"

H.: "First of all, I didn't ask to have that picture taken with you.... Don't tell me 'no,' I didn't ask anyone to take our picture. Sima had the camera and Sima took the camera and said, 'Come, let's get another picture of you.' I couldn't respond to you, I was in shock, because if I could respond, if I could respond, then someone apparently would have gotten slapped at that moment. But I couldn't respond. I went out, the smile here is so that no one around would notice what happened in the room, and I have tears in my eyes in this picture, you don't see it, from the shock, yes, from what you did."

Ramon: "I don't see any tears in your eyes. I see a picture in which you're smiling."

H.: "Too bad, they should bring you the picture another time and show you."

Ramon: "Look, I'd be glad if I had the picture here. But I don't have it for some reason."

Later, H. adds: "I acted like a robot, this smile is a totally frozen smile, there's nothing in it, there was no happiness and joy in it."

The next topic is the phone number that H. gave to Ramon immediately after the kiss. Ramon claimed that H. gave him the number at her initiative. H. claimed that Ramon asked her for it.

Among other things, Ramon presses H. on this question: "You give [your phone number] to a person who hurt you so badly that afterward you went to complain to the police about him. Isn't that strange?"

H.: "It's not strange, because in the situation where it happened, in the Prime Minister's Bureau, for me you weren't just any 56-year-old man, you were still the justice minister. True, maybe I shouldn't have given you this respect and just told you, 'You know what? You can go to hell, I'm not giving you my phone number or anything else,' but I didn't do that because it was in a situation that didn't enable me to react to anything. Because if I wanted, today in retrospect I know, I could have screamed, and I didn't do that. Why didn't I do that? It's because I gave respect to the place and to the whole situation."

At one stage of the confrontation, H. says to Ramon: "If my story is so untrue, then how come you know the details so well and how can you discuss it and spend so much time going over it, if it's not true at all?"

Ramon: "I'm explaining it to you because I want to prove, I explained to Chief Superintendent Eran that even your false story doesn't sound reasonable. I think I'm a reasonable person."

H.: "You can't prove...."

Ramon: "I am proving...."

H.: "You can't prove it, because my story is true, it's true."

Ramon: "I want to ask you, if I were to tell you some story about a friend of yours, that a girl, after she says an obscene act was done to her, was to have her picture taken with the guy who did the obscene act and appear smiling. Her eyes are shining and she has her shoulder pressed against his, not by force now. Not even one millimeter away, that you'd think, naturally, you'd need to keep away from me...."

H.: "You're the one who's bending your head toward me in this picture."

Ramon: "...look how you're standing, there's not a millimeter, not a single millimeter of space.... You could have shied away, you could have moved, but nothing. Not one millimeter of space... and what really happened is that you were joking with the girls and afterwards you come and give me the phone number in your own writing. If I were to tell you such a story about another girl.... You'd say, this girl is making up stories that never happened in order to cover for something that isn't right..."

H.: "Why would I want to make up stories? Why should I tell stories?"

Ramon interrupts her and Golan cautions him: "Mr. Ramon, let her speak, Mr. Ramon."

H.: "This picture, if you knew what I was feeling at that moment when you pressed against me like that, and you are the one who pressed against me in this picture, you're leaning your head towards me, you can see it in the picture, you can look at the pictures another time. You see that you're leaning your head... you know what kind of chill went through my body when you pressed against me like that? I wanted to throw up, you know what I mean? I wanted to throw up. That's what I wanted to do."

Ramon: "I, I, I...."

H.: "You're lucky I'm a cool-headed person. Let me finish. You're lucky I'm a cool-headed person, because [if not] I would have screamed and everyone would have come out of the room and known exactly what happened at that moment. But don't worry, the police will find the truth, you can say whatever you want now. The truth is what I'm saying, now you can, I'll, like, laugh when you say it, because it really makes me laugh that a justice minister in the State of Israel, instead of saying, 'I'm sorry, I made a mistake,' stands before me and makes up a story...."

After several exchanges with Kamin, Ramon says to H.: "I want to avoid all these false accusations and talk, because every time you don't know how to explain things your words seem illogical, then you go hurling accusations and I'm restraining myself not to descend to this level. But I'll say it once again, if you come now and say that you were about to throw up, if this is how you look when you're about to throw up, then you're the happiest person in the world...."

Later, Ramon provides his version of the kiss itself - only once in the course of the entire confrontation. He repeats his account of the flirtation on her part and about the photographs. He says that after the third photograph, he returned to the office and watched television. "And then you came into the room that I was in, at your initiative, you came up very close to me and then there was a kiss in which you brought your lips to me and the kiss was very brief, it was stopped at my initiative because there was noise... and then there was noise from people coming out of the cabinet meeting, that the meeting was over. I went out together with you. I said to you, 'We'll talk and we'll be in touch,' and you gave me, you wrote down your telephone number."

A few days later, the two met by chance in the Prime Minister's Office. During the video conference confrontation, Ramon confirmed that H. had appeared "sad" and "reserved" and explained: "I didn't inquire about it. Maybe it was something at home, it didn't occur to me, I asked her a question, when she was being discharged, I saw that she answered me with some difficulty, I didn't know what was wrong, I went on my way." Afterwards, Ramon added: "I guess that after four days she was no longer a robot, she could talk, she could respond, she could say to me, Mr. Minister, I ask that you don't come near me, quietly, no need to shout."

H.: "As for your question of why I didn't respond... I didn't want to run into you, I was unable to look at you. I didn't have the courage to come and tell you, 'You did something wrong.' That's just how it was, you're someone who's on a ranking or level that's a bit higher than me."


Toward the end of the confrontation, H. turns to Ramon with emotion: "I saw you in the office three or four times. I have no interest in this publicity and all the things they're writing in the newspapers I certainly don't need, and that's also why, this is one of the reasons that I say thank God I'm not in Israel now and don't have to hear all that's being said about me. Because, believe me, that's one of the reasons I waited for 10 days and only complained to the police after all that time. Why? Because I don't need all this. But you know what? I have women soldiers in the office and other girls I'm responsible for. As a former officer in the IDF, I care about these soldiers and I don't want what happened to me to happen to them."

Ramon: "There's no logic in anything you say. It's not logical that a minister would come in for two seconds and pounce on you. It's not logical, because he's waiting for the prime minister. What you say is a thousand times more illogical, you're not being logical. Your story is illogical, it doesn't make sense, the last thing I need is to kiss a girl by force. I've kissed more than a few women in my life and not one ever claimed I kissed her by force, ever, and you're the last one I should come and kiss by force. And therefore your story is a thousand times more illogical."

In the final minutes of the confrontation, after Ramon reiterates that H. is making things up, Golan asks H. if she has falsely accused Ramon. H. replies: "Miri, I never, but never, thought of doing such a thing. I would never make false accusations. I don't need this. I'm not someone who wants to be in the spotlight, because this isn't my idea of the spotlight..."

Ramon asks Golan to ask him the same question. Golan: "I think, Mr. Ramon, sir, that you've been given the whole platform here to say everything from A to Z."

Ramon: "Since you don't want to ask me like you asked her, then I'll tell you, I'll respond as if the head of the Fraud Investigation Unit, Madam Golan, had asked me whether H. was not telling the truth and making false accusations against me? Everything I've said is the truth... I repeat, everything I've said is the whole truth." W

Ramon: I am a victim of the prosecution
Jerusalem Post - November 23, 2006

The testimony phase in the trial of former Justice Minister Haim Ramon ended on Thursday, with Ramon sticking to his story that the woman he is accused of forcibly kissing took the initiative in flirting with him and that he responded to it and enjoyed it.

Ramon is standing trial in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on charges of committing an indecent act in the Prime Minister's Tel Aviv office against Heh, a 20-year-old soldier a few days before her discharge from the army.

Ramon lost his temper during cross-examination, when the prosecutor, Ariella Segal-Antler, charged that he was trying to portray himself as an innocent and passive victim of the soldier's wiles.

"I think that when the prosecutor has nothing based on facts, then she at least has her imagination," said Ramon. "To accuse me, after all I've said maybe 20 times, of portraying myself as a victim proves that there is no relation between the truth and what is going on in this courtroom. Did I portray myself as a victim? I am a victim of the prosecution, that's true. I am a victim because I've been put on trial, that's true. I have said several times that I fully cooperated, she went after me and I responded."

Earlier in the cross examination, Segal Antler asked him whether he thought all the women who had said over the years that they found him attractive actually wanted a romantic or sexual relationship with him.

"Some did and some didn't," he replied. "I'm talking about a period three or four years ago. When Dep.-Cmdr. Kamin said it wasn't possible that a young woman would want a relationship with a man of 56, I said I could give him the phone numbers of a few young women [who did.]"


Prosecutor asks court to 'make a statement' by convicting Ramon of forcibly kissing woman
Jerusalem Post - November 28, 2006

"The public is expecting a normative declaration on the part of the court that the protection of a person's autonomy over his body is absolute and that when a woman decides to joke with someone or even to be photographed embracing someone, she does not lose the right to decide what will be done with her body or the right that others will not ignore what she wants," prosecutor Ariella Antler-Segal told the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in the summation of her case against former justice minister Haim Ramon.

Ramon, 56, is on trial for allegedly using force to kiss a 21-year-old female soldier in the Prime Minister's Office in Tel Aviv on July 12.

Antler-Segal said that the court must convict Ramon on the basis of the evidence and because of the normative principle involved in the case.

"The prosecution asks the court in this case to make a normative statement that a person with the status of the defendant, in the circumstances surrounding the incident, cannot under any circumstances regard a two-minute conversation and the taking of two photographs as an invitation on the part of the woman or her consent to a sexual act," Antler-Segal said. "[Especially] when the woman is a soldier, a 21-year-old officer and the defendant is the justice minister, 56 years old, who represents the apex of government power; when the incident takes place in the Prime Minister's Office, at arm's length from a meeting of the security forum which is about to decide to go to war; where the place is, one could almost say, a public place; where the incident, as described by the plaintiff, occurs when the defendant seizes her face without leaving her any chance to express disagreement; when the kiss took her by surprise; when the plaintiff did not have the physical space or the time to react or express herself."

Antler-Segal also said the evidence proved that the plaintiff's account of the events was true and that Ramon had "seized her face, brought her close to him, kissed him, inserted his tongue in her mouth and that the kiss was against her will, that it totally surprised her, that she did not have a chance to react because of the element of surprise and because he had seized her face." The prosecutor added that Ramon had failed to disprove the plaintiff's account and that several witnesses had provided testimony supporting her story.

Ramon's lawyer, Dan Scheinemann, was due to present his summary later in the day. Another day of hearings is scheduled for next week, after which the court will then adjourn to decide a verdict.


Breaking News
Livni to head Justice Ministry

JTA - November 29, 2006

Tzipi Livni was appointed as Israel's justice minister.

Livni replaces Haim Ramon, who stepped down as justice minister while being tried on sexual harassment charges.

Livni, who will retain the Foreign Ministry portfolio as well, is taking the justice job with the expectation that Ramon will be acquitted and resume his responsibilities.

Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit has filled the justice portfolio until now on a temporary basis.


Israeli FM named as new justice minister
People's Daily - November 30, 2006

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert submitted a proposal on Wednesday to appoint Tzipi Livni as justice minister in addition to her current position as Foreign Minister, Israeli local media reported.

Livni agreed to the request of Olmert to take the position until the verdict is given in the case of former Justice Minister Haim Ramon.

Olmert made the decision Wednesday morning and he informed Interim Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit of it in the afternoon.

The proposal passed a cabinet vote Wednesday afternoon and is due to be voted on in the Knesset (Parliament) later in the day.

Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon, who currently stands trial for sexual harassment charges, resigned from the post after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced his intention to bring Ramon on trial for kissing a female soldier in his office.

Israeli Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On was quoted as saying that the proposed appointment of Livni "sent a message from Olmert " that he was waiting for Ramon to be exonerated of his charges and returned to his post.


Knesset okays Livni as justice minister
By Gil Hoffman
The Jerusalem Post -  November 29, 2006

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert invited Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to his office on Wednesday and told her that he had decided to appoint her as justice minister or take the position himself, a Kadima official said.

According to the official, Olmert told Livni, "it's either me or you" and ruled out appointing Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, who held the portfolio on a temporary basis for the maximum 90 days that ended Thursday and had hoped to receive a permanent appointment.

The official said that Olmert, who is the subject of several investigations, essentially forced Livni to accept the job.

Livni and Olmert's spokesmen denied this version of the events that transpired on Wednesday but Sheetrit believes it and he has guaranteed that in the upcoming months, there "will not be quiet" between Olmert and the rejected minister, who has vowed to run against him for the Kadima leadership.

"Olmert has once again preferred politics over professionalism, breaking a promise to Meir Sheetrit, just like he did when he failed to appoint him finance minister," the Kadima official said.

When Olmert informed Sheetrit that he did not receive the appointment, he said the reason he appointed Livni was that he wanted to emphasize that it was temporary and that he expected the imminent return of former minister Haim Ramon, who is on trial for sexual harassment.

Sheetrit responded by saying that he had made clear to the prime minister that he was willing to quit the post the moment Ramon was exonerated.

Interior Minster Roni Bar-On, the minister closest to Olmert, said that had it appeared that Ramon would not return, the portfolio would have gone to someone else. Bar-On estimated that it would take two or three weeks before Ramon was cleared of the charges and returned to his post. Livni will remain foreign minister and hold multiple portfolios as she often has in recent years.

"Tzipi Livni is a woman of many talents who has proven her ability to hold several posts at the same time and she is seen as more of a temporary appointment than any other candidate because she doesn't want to hold the position permanently," Bar-On said.

Olmert convened his closest advisers to discuss the appointment on Tuesday night and made the decision on Wednesday morning.

Asked about whether the appointment of Livni was insulting to Sheetrit, a source close to the prime minister said: "That's life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."

The appointment passed in the Knesset by a 34 to 14 vote and it was approved in a telephone poll of ministers. Sheetrit did not participate in either vote.

Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar said the appointment "showed disrespect to the Justice Ministry because Livni is a busy foreign minister in a government with too many ministers-without-portfolio.

Former social affairs minister Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) said it was more important to appoint a welfare minister than a justice minister. He said there was no one in the government to defend poor families and welfare services.

Olmert said in a meeting with National Insurance Institute officials on Wednesday that a welfare minister would be named soon. He added that the absence of a minister did not hurt government funding for the ministry.


PM to set up commission on Ramon investigation
Jerusalem Post - November 30, 2006

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided to set up a commission of inquiry into the holes in the investigation of former justice minister Haim Ramon, Channel 10 reported Thursday evening.

Ramon's case - that of the alleged sexual harassment of a female soldier who worked in the Prime Minister's Office - has been fraught with suspicious police activity, such as illegal wiretapping and information that was supposedly missing from the former minister's trial.

Mazuz on Ramon: Sexual harassment was overlooked
by Aviram Zino
YNet - December 4, 2006
Defending his decision to indict former justice minister, attorney general says Israeli society used to be 'chauvinistic,' encouraged women to 'stay home' and remain silent

As the trial of former Justice Minister Haim Ramon nears an end, public criticism over the decision to indict him for accusations of sexual harassment are intensifying.

On Monday, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz appeared before the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and defended his decision to indict Ramon.

"For year incidents of sexual harassment and sexual abuse were overlooked," he said, describing Israeli society as having been "chauvinistic."

He warned critics of his decision, saying: "The public campaign over the scandal will take us back to where civilized countries are no longer."

Mazuz shared with Knesset members the difficulties faced by female plaintiffs: "They tell them: turn your head, bow your head, stay home and don't complain. The number of complaints ... of this kind is small in every society, even today."

Wiretapping regulations Mazuz said women who decide to take action against offenders face difficult judicial and public challenges, and could be further burdened by the media if the defendants are public figures.

"Encouraging individuals to complain is important on every level," he said.

Mazuz said disputed cases like that of Ramon's should not be generalized. "Arguments or claims on a certain incident cause great public damage," he said.

Mazuz also responded to criticism of wiretapping regulations in Israel. "Every system has its shortcomings and failures, were are checking and drawing lessons," he admitted.

Mazuz also slammed legislators for waging a campaign to limit the rights of law enforcement authorities to wiretap, saying their decision to set up a parliamentary committee to review wiretapping regulations is vague since it fails to mention which law enforcement body should be reprimanded for misusing the procedure.

Ramon's attorney accuses investigators of obstruction of justice
By Gideon Alon and Nir Hasson

Haaretz -

The attorney for Haim Ramon said Monday that the trial of the former justice minister for sexual assault should be terminated due to what he called obstruction of justice on the part of investigators.

"There was reason to terminate the trial of Haim Ramon," the attorney, Dan Sheinman, said Monday during final deliberations at Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.

A verdict in the trial is due to be given January 1, the court ruled at the end of deliberations.

Sheinman said that information had been concealed on wiretaps in installed in Ramon's office during the investigation.

"The issue of obstruction of justice is so fundamental, that the trial should have been stopped at the completion of the prosecution witnesses' testimony," he said.

He added that if defense attorneys had been in possession of the material currently available to them at the outset of the trial, they would request a hearing before Attorney General Menachem Mazuz before an indictment order was filed, and even to work against Ramon's immunity in the Knesset.

Sheinman also claimed that investigators placed inappropriate pressure on the complainant to file a suit against Ramon.

Sheinman also criticized Miri Golan, head of the police investigations unit, who told the complainant that if she did not speak out, Ramon would be able to file a defamation suit against her.

Earlier Monday, Mazuz slammed the media campaign launched against his decision to indict former Justice Minister Haim Ramon with sexual assault, saying it was causing "heavy societal damage."

Speaking to the Knesset Legislative Committee, Mazuz also said the campaign was "leading us back years, to the place of uncivilized states."

Mazuz said he was concerned that following the campaign, women who had been sexually assaulted would be afraid to complain, at a time when it was necessary for society to rally around these women and encourage them to come out against their attackers.

"The media campaign accompanying this matter is likely to bring us into a regression of years because it has treated this event with forgiveness," Mazuz added.

Mazuz also criticized the Knesset's decision to create a parliamentary panel of inquiry into the matter of eavesdropping, following failings revealed during the investigation of Ramon.

He said it was unclear to him why it was necessary to establish a parliamentary panel of inquiry to look into a matter which the Knesset Legislative Committee has the authority to evaluate.


Mazuz slams outcry against Ramon trial

Jerusalem Post - December 4, 2006

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz warned that sweeping, generalized and destructive criticism of the law enforcement agencies could deter them from acting, thereby threatening the rule of law in Israel.

Mazuz also warned that the delegitimization of the decision to investigate the complaint against Kadima MK Haim Ramon for allegedly forcibly kissing a female soldier could discourage women from complaining to police when they are victims of sexual harassment.

Mazuz was speaking at a session of the Knesset Law Committee.

"Intimidating the police investigators and the law enforcement system is dangerous because it is not something that is restricted to one specific case or another," said Mazuz. "If we reach the point where the police are afraid to investigate and the prosecution afraid to indict powerful people, it will be the beginning of the end of law enforcement in Israel."

Mazuz was talking about the criticism and the allegations of a conspiracy against Ramon after it emerged that the prosecution had failed to hand over to the MK's defense attorney transcripts of conversations that the police had taped during its investigation.

"One can criticize the police, the state prosecution and the attorney-general but whoever does so must distinguish between criticism of a given decision or act, and criticism which delegitimizes the entire law enforcement system," said Mazuz.

He added that the police and the state prosecution had not tried to cover up the failure regarding the wiretapped conversations, but, on the contrary, had investigated how it had happened and published their findings.

He made a parallel protest regarding the criticism that has been leveled at the prosecution's decision to investigate the complaint against Ramon and to put him on trial on charges of committing an indecent act.

"The decision has triggered a public and media campaign to delegitimize the very decision to enforce the law in the area of sexual harassment," said Mazuz. "This broad public campaign threatens to cause us to regress many years in the battle to raise public consciousness about this issue and the importance of dealing with it. In Israeli society, which has a male-centered, machoistic culture, the question of sexual harassment was not considered one that had to be addressed. It was treated with tolerance. But in the past 10-20 years, thanks to systematic and consistent effort, public awareness has greatly increased regarding the importance of respecting the individual's will and autonomy."

These achievements have been imperiled by the alleged campaign, continued Mazuz. "They will result in a situation in which the woman who has been harmed by sexual harassment will ask herself, after she hears and reads [about the criticism of the Ramon case] what do I need it for? In essence, they are telling me to turn my back, bend my head, stay at home and not complain...This campaign 'encourages' women not to complain and avoid confrontation, and the confrontation is not an easy one. Every woman who complains goes through a process which isn't simple - socially, within the family, within society, within the environment, and, if it involves a public figure, in the media as well. I think it is important to encourage the individual to complain about every alleged crime. This is true for all crimes, and particularly true for this one."

Ramon: State is guilty of obstructionof justice; trial should be terminated
Jerusalem Post - December 4, 2006

Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court will hand down its verdict in the trial of Haim Ramon on January 1, after holding its final day of hearings Monday on allegations that the Kadima MK committed an indecent act against a female soldier by using force to kiss her against her will.

Earlier, Ramon's lawyer, Dan Scheinemann, concluded his summary arguments in which he claimed that the plaintiff, H., had flirted with Ramon and that he sincerely believed she wanted him to kiss her.

During Monday's arguments, Scheinemann called on the court to terminate the trial because the state had allegedly been guilty of obstructing justice.

Scheinemann was referring to the fact that the prosecution twice denied that the police had wiretapped phone conversations of individuals connected to the investigation of his client. It was only on November 2 that the prosecutor, Ariella Segal-Antler, asked the police whether they had in fact conducted wiretaps.

In a public statement issued a few days later, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz explained that the police had wiretapped the conversations of the plaintiff, H., her army commander and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau chief, Shula Zaken, to see whether H. had been under pressure not to complain about Ramon's alleged act.

After one day of wiretapping, the police were satisfied that the suspicion was unfounded and placed the tapes in a file separate from the Ramon investigation file and closed it. Therefore, Segal-Antler did not know about the tapes until, after having been asked about them twice by Scheinemann, she double-checked with the police.

After studying the tapes, Segal-Antler found that some of the conversations did indeed have bearing on the Ramon case and gave them to Scheinemann.

When the incident came to light, Scheinemann said he would consider asking the court to close the case on grounds of obstruction of justice. However, he did not do so at the time.

On Monday, he told the court that had he been in possession of the tapes at the time, he would have asked Mazuz for a hearing and might have asked the Knesset to invoke his parliamentary immunity. Ramon waived both these rights in order to speed up the trial procedure.

Scheinemann also argued that the police had put undue pressure on H. to lodge a complaint against Ramon and that the chief police investigator in the case, Dep.-Cmdr. Miri Golan, had misled H. by telling her that if she did not complain, Ramon would be able to sue her for defamation of character.


A victory for Israel's feminists
The Globe and Mail (Toronto) - January 25, 2007

The present troubles of Moshe Katsav, until now the President of the State of Israel, should be seen as a victory for feminism. 

It's not likely that even a few decades ago a woman would ever have brought a case against a person in high office in Israel, accusing him of sexual abuse (in this case, also rape). Today, however, even before he has been formally indicted, Mr. Katsav has to leave his post, not for formal legal reasons but because of public opinion, reflected in the pronouncements of Knesset members across party lines and by columnists. Irrespective of the outcome of the case, Mr. Katsav must fight it like any other citizen, not from the President's residence. 

To add to the feminist triumph, Mr. Katsav's replacement, as he steps down at least temporarily from office, is a woman: Dalia Itzik. The speaker of the Knesset becomes, according to law, the de facto president. Ms. Itzik may indeed be a candidate for the permanent position, in due course, especially if former prime minister Shimon Peres won't stand, as will at least one other woman, Colette Avital, a member of Knesset and Israel's former consul-general in New York. 

It's still hard for many Israelis, not least for those with an Oriental or Sephardi background (Mr. Katsav was born in Iran), to accept that women's bodies and souls are their own -- just as are those of men -- and no one, not even a husband, is allowed to touch either unless invited. The challenge has been particularly dramatic in the Israel Defence Forces, where male officers often believed that their command over soldiers included the right to sexual advances. Of late, the IDF has taken steps to stop it and to punish those, irrespective of rank, who transgress the rules. It's hoped that it'll be a warning to others and make for a healthier Israel. 

The legal drama that goes on in another court of law is a case in point. A woman, at that time in uniform, accused the then-minister of justice, Haim Ramon, of forcing his tongue into her mouth against her will. Unlike Mr. Katsav, Mr. Ramon immediately took a leave of absence and has been fighting his case like any other citizen. A verdict is expected next week. And unlike the case against Mr. Katsav -- where the alleged evidence is said to come from several women, to stretch over a long period of time, and to include incriminating taped conversations -- the case against Mr. Ramon is much less clear-cut. In fact, he may be acquitted and return to his post. 

Much of the rumour mill in defence of Mr. Ramon and Mr. Katsav has been along familiar male chauvinist lines: The women lied, because it's the "in" thing to accuse men; they're hysterical, spurned lovers who in fact engaged in consensual sex with the accused; they provoked men in high office to blackmail them; they're in fact prostitutes in disguise. Of course, nothing of this has been proven in court. But the court of public opinion has been very active with plenty of rumours and unsubstantiated claims on both sides. 

Though, particularly in the case of the President, this kind of publicity may harm Israel (only Russia's Vladimir Putin is reported to have been favourably impressed), it may, in the end, also do the country some good by demonstrating that, as in other modern Western societies, the alleged exploitation of women doesn't go unreported and, if proven, doesn't go unpunished. 

In the long run, the possible removal of the President may turn out to be more of a victory for all of Israel than the embarrassment it currently is for many of us. 

Dow Marmur is rabbi emeritus of Toronto's Holy Blossom Temple and past executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Court rules official violated Israel's sex harassment law
By Richard Boudreaux
Chicago Tribune - Feb. 1, 2007 

The kiss lasted a few seconds. The morality play it inspired lasted more than six months, riveting Israelis and their legal system on a single question: Did she or didn't she want it? 

The drama ended Wednesday when the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court ruled that the plaintiff, a 21-year-old female army first lieutenant "did not flirt with the accused, did not initiate the kiss and did not consent to it." With that, a three-judge panel convicted Haim Ramon, a founder of the prime minister's Kadima Party and an architect of his ruling coalition, of violating Israel's sexual harassment law by committing an "indecent act" while he was justice minister. 

The unanimous verdict, which could send the 56-year-old to prison for up to three years, jolted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's scandal- plagued government. Olmert had been confident enough in an acquittal that he was holding the justice post open for Ramon, who resigned in August to face trial. 

Israel already was reeling from the attorney general's announcement last week that he planned to indict President Moshe Katsav, whose post is largely ceremonial, on charges of raping and sexually assaulting former female employees. Katsav, 61, has taken a leave of absence and this week vacated his official residence while he fights the charges and a move in parliament to impeach him. 

Olmert's center-left government is expected to survive, but scandals have shaken public trust. 

As Ramon heard the verdict read in court, he gazed down, holding his head in both hands. He left quickly, without comment, but made it known later that he would appeal. He also faces a likely suspension from his seat in parliament. 

Ramon had arrived for a Cabinet meeting in Olmert's office July 12, at the start of the war in Lebanon, when the plaintiff approached and asked him to pose with her for a photograph. 

As a conscript, she had been assigned by the army to serve as secretary to Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, Olmert's top military aide. She was nearing the end of her service and collecting souvenir photos of herself with the various officials she had met passing in and out of Olmert's office. 

Olmert's official photographer took their picture. What happened next, after the photographer had left them alone in the room, became the subject of a "he said, she said" standoff. 

The plaintiff, known in court papers and the media only as H to protect her privacy, said she released her grip on Ramon and turned to leave the room. She said he pulled her back, held her cheek and planted his lips on hers, inserting his tongue into her mouth, until she pulled away. 

Ramon did not dispute the kiss but said that H had initiated it after flirting with him and inviting him to join her on a Central American vacation. 

Shamni persuaded her to file a criminal complaint.

Olmert ally convicted of indecent assault
The Gazette (Montreal) - Feburary 1, 2007

Israel was rocked by a sex scandal again yesterday when former justice minister Haim Ramon was found guilty of indecent assault against a 20-year-old female soldier. 

Three judges unanimously found the 56-year-old lawyer and member of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ruling Kadima Party, had lied to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court when he denied "placing his lips on her lips and inserting his tongue in her mouth," repeatedly, and against the complainant's will when the two of them met, for the first time, in his office. 

The incident took place moments before the Israeli cabinet voted to go to war against Hezbollah in Lebanon last summer. 

The judges found the testimony of the woman, who was only known in court as H, regarding the kisses was "authentic, coherent, credible, and reliable." 

"This was not a kiss of affection," the court said. "This has all the elements of a sexual crime." 

The conviction was another staggering blow to Olmert's coalition government, which has been reeling for months over severe public condemnation of its mishandling of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. 

As well, the prime minister himself faces at least two criminal investigations into financial misconduct, his finance minister is under investigation for abusing his position for financial gain and another former minister has been charged with fraud, bribery and perjury. 

Only last week, Israel's 61-year-old-president, Moshe Katsav, was charged with sex crimes including rape that involved several women less than half his age, as well as separate charges relating to fraud and obstruction of justice. 

Public outrage over the war in Lebanon, where Olmert failed in his stated objective to win the release of two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, and over the rising tide of sexual and financial misbehaviour by the country's political leadership, has also had a devastating effect on the prime minister's popularity. Recent polls have found more than two-thirds of Israelis want Olmert to resign. 

A survey published two days ago by the popular Ynetnews website painted an even more damning picture. 

It revealed only three per cent of the electorate wanted Olmert returned as prime minister in the next election. 

"These are the lowest figures for an Israeli prime minister in the 30 years that I have been doing this," said pollster Rafi Smith, who conducted the Ynet poll. 

Hours before his conviction, friends of Ramon's had confidently predicted in the media that the divorced politician would be found not guilty for what was described as "a misunderstanding" over a "French kiss" and that he intended to resume the position as Olmert's justice minister, from which he resigned when charges were brought against him six months ago. 

Instead Ramon faces up to three years in jail when the court pronounces a sentence on Feb. 21. 

When Ramon's conviction was announced in court his girlfriend, who appeared to be several decades younger than him, hugged him supportively. 

Through his lawyers Ramon indicated he intended to appeal his conviction.


Sex conviction for ex-minister
Irish Independent - February 1, 2007 

AN Israeli court ruled yesterday that former Justice Minister Haim Ramon kissed a woman soldier against her will, convicting him of sexual misconduct in one of several scandals casting shadows on Israeli leaders. 

The guilty verdict was unlikely to have a direct impact on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political fortunes, but officials said he was expected to reshuffle his cabinet. Mr Ramon (56), could face three years in jail. 


Israeli official is convicted; Ex-justice minister who kissed a female army officer is found guilty of sexual harassment
By Richard Boudreaux
Los Angeles Times - February 1, 2007 

The kiss lasted a few seconds. The morality play it inspired lasted more than six months, riveting Israelis and their legal system on a single question: Did she or didn't she want it? 

The drama ended Wednesday when the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court ruled that a 21-year-old female army first lieutenant "did not flirt with the accused, did not initiate the kiss and did not consent to it." 

With that, a three-judge panel convicted Haim Ramon, a founder of the prime minister's Kadima party and an architect of his ruling coalition, of violating Israel's sexual harassment law by committing an "indecent act" while he was justice minister. 

The unanimous verdict, which could send Ramon, 56, to prison for up to three years, jolted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's scandal- ridden government. Olmert had been confident enough of an acquittal that he was holding the justice post open for Ramon, who resigned in August to stand trial. 

The impact of the ruling went beyond politics. Some legal experts called it a victory for women's rights advocates battling to redefine the boundaries in Israel between powerful men and the young women who work around them. 

Others said Ramon's conviction was not deserved and would inspire an effort to soften one of the world's toughest sexual harassment laws. 

Israel was already reeling from the attorney general's announcement last week that he was prepared to indict President Moshe Katsav, whose post is largely ceremonial, on charges that he had raped and sexually harassed female subordinates. Katsav, 61, is on a leave of absence and has moved out of his official residence while he fights the charges and a move in parliament to impeach him. 

Olmert's center-left government is expected to survive, but scandals have shaken the public trust. The prime minister is under investigation for his role in the government's sale of a bank when he was finance minister, and a corruption inquiry focusing on the tax authority has implicated his personal secretary. 

As Ramon listened to the verdict, he gazed downward, holding his head in his hands. He left quickly, without comment, but made it known later that he would appeal. He also faces a possible suspension from his parliament seat. 

The incident occurred July 12, at the start of the war in Lebanon, when Ramon arrived for a Cabinet meeting in Olmert's office and the plaintiff asked him to pose with her for a photo. 

She had been assigned by the army to serve as a secretary to Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, Olmert's top military aide. She was nearing the end of her service and was collecting souvenir photos of herself with the various officials she had met passing in and out of Olmert's office. 

She and Ramon embraced as Olmert's official photographer took their picture. What happened next, after the photographer left them alone in the room, became the subject of a "he said, she said" standoff. 

The plaintiff, known in court papers and the media only as H to protect her privacy, said she released her grip on Ramon and turned to leave the room. She said he pulled her back, held her cheek and planted his lips on hers, inserting his tongue in her mouth until she pulled away. 

Ramon did not dispute the kiss but claimed that H had initiated it after flirting with him and inviting him to join her on a Central American vacation. 

Shamni persuaded her to file a criminal complaint, and investigators debating whether to indict Ramon arranged a meeting between him and the young woman. 

Israeli newspapers summarized the 80-page transcript at length for a public hungry for soap-opera details. 

One exchange went to the heart of the legal issue that would involve months of trial testimony: 
Ramon: "You claimed I kissed you. Did you resist?" 

H: "I was in shock. I couldn't move." 

Ramon: "Which means I couldn't understand that you were resisting."
H: "I was in shock." 
Israel's sexual harassment law, enacted in 1998, is unusually stringent because it does not require the recipient of a kiss or other form of sexual contact to put up physical resistance to prove a lack of consent. 

The judges, two women and a man, sided with H's contention that nothing she had said or done could have been reasonably interpreted by Ramon as inviting the kiss. They ruled that the act was "an explicit sex offense ... not a kiss of affection." 

"This is a victory for women's autonomy over their bodies and their dignity," legal commentator Moshe Negbi said. "We do not send our daughters to the army so they may satisfy the sexual urges of men of power and authority." 

But some women's rights advocates were uncomfortable with the ruling. 

Shulamit Aloni, a liberal activist, said she doubted Ramon harbored any criminal intent, and she was troubled by the apparent pressure put on H by her boss to file the complaint. 

Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the conservative opposition Likud Party, said parliament should amend the law to "include a component of aggression" in the definition of an indecent act. "A misunderstanding between a man and a woman should not end in such a grave indictment," he said. 

Yael Dayan, chief sponsor of the law, agreed that Ramon's offense stemmed from a "misunderstanding." She said the backlash over the case was "a pity because it overshadows genuinely criminal cases and may deter women from filing necessary complaints." 

"This case offers a lesson to women and men," Dayan said on Israel Radio. "Women, if you're not interested, make it known. And men, don't take women by surprise. There's no need to have a lengthy discussion of every kiss in advance, but where there's no preexisting relationship, remember that there was once a crazy member of parliament named Yael Dayan who passed this law!" 


Report: Prosecution won't ask court to sentence Ramon to jail
By Nir Hasson
Haaretz - February 1, 2007 

Ex-justice min. vows to appeal indecent behavior conviction; verdict: Ramon's behavior 'intrusive, humiliating.'

The prosecution will not ask the court to hand former justice Minister Haim Ramon a prison sentence, and instead will make do with a suspended sentence and a fine, Israel Radio reported Thursday. 

The court is due to hear sentencing arguments on February 21, after which it will hand down Ramon's sentence. 

Ramon was convicted for indecent behavior at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Wednesday afternoon, for having kissed a young female soldier against her will. The former justice minister has vowed to appeal. 

Ramon did not respond when the unequivocal ruling was read aloud at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, saying he needed to study the verdict and rushing out of the courtroom. "But even now, quite a few questions have already arisen," he said. 

The three judges - Hayuta Kochan, Daniella Shirizli and Daniel Be'eri - unanimously rejected Ramon's version of the kiss, which he said was consensual, as neither credible nor logical. They said the kiss included all the elements of a sexual offense. 

"We are not dealing with a gray area or a confusing area, but with an intrusive, damaging and humiliating act," the verdict stated. "After examining all the evidence, we found that the complainant's account is the absolute truth. On the other hand, we found that Ramon did not stick to the truth ... [He] exaggerated the part played by the complainant and distorted the facts in a devious and crafty way." 

The 73-page verdict repeatedly highlights what the judges found to be the credibility, consistency and authenticity of the testimony of the complainant, identified only as H. It also characterizes Ramon as having tried to inflate H.'s role in the kiss while reducing his own. 

Throughout the trial, Ramon argued that he could not have known that the kiss was against H.'s will because she was flirting with him. She also did not act like she was traumatized after the kiss, posing for a picture with him and giving him her telephone number at her own initiative, he said. 

Ramon has said he did not insert or try to insert his tongue into the complainant's mouth, as the indictment alleges, but did not deny the possibility that his "tongue touched her lips." 

But the judges found Ramon to be claiming a "false innocence." 

"The mouth of the accused did not open on its own, but only if he wanted it to do so," they wrote. "A person's tongue does not have a life of its own and it does not leave his mouth without him intending so. The use of the tongue during the kiss is a conscious action." 

The judges also determined that the conversation preceding the kiss was not at all flirtatious. "We fully adopt the version of the complainant," they wrote, that the conversation had "no hint, on her part, of a romantic connection with the accused." 

"We found it difficult to understand how and why a mature and intelligent person could interpret a hallway conversation of a minute and a half or two minutes with a young female soldier, 20-years-old, about 'what do you think about coming with me to Costa Rica' as a flirtatious conversation with sexual overtones leading to a romantic connection," the judges wrote. 

In addition, several witnesses testified that H. was upset after the kiss took place. 

Another target of the judges' criticism was the witnesses for the defense, who they said were largely brought in to discredit H. and testify about her "flirtatious" nature. 

Cabinet Secretary Israel Maimon, for instance, testified that he too had a flirtatious conversation with H. Maimon stood by his testimony Wednesday."My testimony in court is completely true," he said. "With all due respect to the court, the interpretation of my testimony in the verdict is more than surprising to me."


Complainant in Ramon case to donate compensation money to charity

By Nir Hasson
Haaretz - March 29, 2007
Court upholds former justice minister's indecent assault conviction, but rules he is not guilty of moral turpitude.

The woman whose complaint led to the conviction of former justice minister Haim Ramon for assault said on Thursday she would donate her compensation money to a women's rights organization. 

"I think the trial's message has been conveyed to women in the most effective way: It is a woman's right to be in control of her body at all times, even if [the person harassing her is] a powerful person with connections," she said. 

"I've moved on in my life. I haven't dealt with the verdict at all and as far as I'm concerned that chapter in my life ended when the court ruled I was telling the truth," she added. 

Earlier on Thursday, State Prosecution said it was considering an appeal of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court ruling Thursday that Ramon was not guilty of moral turpitude. 

The decision means Ramon can remain in the Knesset and even resume serving as a government minister. 

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will host deliberations on the issue soon. 

The court upheld Ramon's indecent assault conviction Thursday morning, sentencing him to 120 hours of community service and ordered him to pay the victim NIS 15,000 in compensation. 

The Kadima MK was convicted in January for kissing a female soldier against her will. 

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann said Thursday that he is "pleased that Haim Ramon can resume political activity." 

The prosecution had asked for a suspended jail sentence for Ramon, while the defense had asked for the court to overturn the former justice minister's conviction and sentence him to community service.
The three-judge panel of Hayota Kohan, Daniel Beeri and Daniela Sahrizali ruled that "there is no doubt that there are substantial considerations in the defendant's favor. He is a known Israeli public figure." 

"For many years, he played many public roles, as a Member of Knesset and as a minister," wrote the judges. "His public service is to his credit, and was taken into consideration when we decided his fate." 

"We were not blind to the distress and pain that were the defendant's fate given the loss of his public career," added the judges. 

The court ruled that the incident was isolated and "does not demonstrate that we are dealing with a sex offender or someone has a pattern of criminal behavior." 

"The act itself is not among the more severe forms of this crime, and it is our impression that it was an unplanned event. We are certain that [Ramon] learned his lesson, and that the defendant will be extra precautious from now on." 

Judges: All the defense tactics were aimed at slander
The judges added that they were aware of the heavy price paid by Ramon following the conviction, yet they criticized his statement of regret, maintaining that it did not coincide with the way he acted during the trial. "All the defense tactics were directed against the complainant, slandering her and crushing her dignity," they said. 

"And in general, bringing three false testimonies added to the fire. Up until now, we still hear echoes of the defendant shouting at the complainant- 'you're a liar.' How can that utterance hold with remorse and internalization? Nice words will not clean the act." 

However, the judges ruled that it was not a crime of moral turpitude. "This isolated and unplanned act by the defendant was carried out after a conversation that was made in poor taste, in an apathetic manner. The act lasted 2-3 seconds, and stopped immediately." 

"The conviction was upheld, as opposed to recommendations from the government psychological evaluations services, and the ruling that the crime was not one of moral turpitude, is the correct balance between the different interests, and provides a fitting expression of the various aspects that arose in this case," the judges wrote. 

In the conclusion of the ruling, the judges wrote that Ramon's punishment is his conviction, and therefore his penalty must be minimal, so that any future harm caused will be directly proportional to the nature of the crime and its circumstances. 

Prosecution, defense pleased with ruling
Following the ruling, Ramon spoke to journalists and said. "I apologize for bothering you; I'm confident we won't meet here again." 

The prosecution expressed satisfaction that the conviction was upheld. Rafi Levy, a senior prosecutor in the Tel Aviv district, said "the decision to uphold the conviction sends an explicit and bold message - a woman's right over her body is certain and clear. Any act carried out by force is forbidden and requires a conviction. Even if the complainant chose to hug the defendant, it is still her right not to have her body harmed." 

Ramon's attorney Dan Sheinman said the conviction will not stop Ramon's political career. "The ruling that the crime was not one of moral turpitude and the punishment of only community service, creates a situation in which there are no obstacles to [Ramon] continuing as an MK or minister." 

Sheinman did not comment on whether Ramon would appeal the court's ruling.


Former minister convicted of sexual harassment gets light sentence
BBC Monitoring Quotes from Israel's Hebrew Press (Maariv)
BBC - March 30, 2007

[Former Justice Minister] Haim Ramon told friends who phoned to congratulate him: "Now that I am not a sex offender, what I want most is quiet - at least until the end of the Knesset recess". Had it been only up to Ramon, he would have quit politics - to make money, see the world. But it does not only depend on him. It also depends on [Prime Minister Ehud] Ehud Olmert, a prime minister in trouble and a friend in distress \ Next week Olmert goes on holiday and with him most of the politicians. After Pessah [Easter] will come Holocaust Day, Remembrance Day and Independence Day with their oppressive and festive ceremonies. And then we will all take a deep breath and enter one of the most dramatic periods the country has known: from the end of April to the end of June the Winograd Report [on the Second Lebanon War] will be published, primaries will be held for the Labour chairmanship and a new president will be elected. No one can predict what the political system will look like in a month, a month-and-a-half, who will be up and who will be down and who will not be there any more. [From commentary by Yossi Verter in left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha'aretz] 

An indecent kiss that should never have reached court returned yesterday to proportions when the magistrate court determined that the offence of which [former Justice Minister] Haim Ramon was convicted did not carry with it disgrace\ After months Ramon can breathe a sigh of relief: the verdict allows him to return to his old world, to serve as a Knesset member and even as a minister should he wish. One does not have to be a political expert to understand how necessary Ramon is these days to [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and to what extent his return to the cabinet is critical to someone whose relations with his foreign minister are murky, his relations with the defence minister do not exist and his relations with the finance minister are a matter of days. Olmert hastened to congratulate Ramon and called on him to return home. Ramon postponed their meeting till after the [Easter] holiday. Now nothing is burning\ [From commentary by Sima Kadmon in centrist, largest circulation Yediot Aharonot] 

It seems that the serving finance minister who is suspected of embezzlement will be replaced, so it seems, by the former justice minister, who will return to political life after he was convicted of an indecent deed. After yesterday's verdict in the trial of Haim Ramon, wrong is he who thinks that the multiplicity of investigations against public figures would create new moral standards, at least with all that has to do with sex offences. It seems that the justices of the magistrate court, who indeed decided not to abolish the conviction but to determine that what we have here is an offence that does not entail disgrace, heard the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, sending Ramon a "warm embrace" following the [original] verdict and the political commentators speaking about an honest and experienced politician. The judges did not dare to block Ramon's path to returning to a ministerial position and to go against a public discourse controlled by male politicians.


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