High Court rejects petitions to bar Ramon from cabinet

In a split decision, the High Court of Justice voted to reject three petitions protesting the appointment of Haim Ramon (Kadima) to the cabinet a few months after he was convicted of committing an indecent act. Justices Ayala Procaccia and Asher Grunis voted to reject the petitions. Justice Edna Arbel cast the dissenting vote. "We cannot say the government's decision to appoint Ramon a minister suffered from striking unreasonableness which justifies the intervention of the court to cancel it," Procaccia wrote. Arbel disagreed, writing that "it appears Ramon's appointment, under the circumstances that were described, causes damage to the basic foundations of the rule of law, foundations which a properly run society cannot do without because they guarantee a public service that enjoys and deserves public confidence. "I believe there is nothing to do but for the court to intervene in the appointment in order to protect the norms to which our system of governance is committed." Three groups petitioned against Ramon's appointment, Emunah - the National Religious Women's Movement, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and a coalition of women's organizations, including Ahoti and Temura (Change) - the Organization to Conduct a Legal Struggle against Discrimination. The petitioners claimed that the appointment was a blow to the well-being of women and that the court in the past had already handed down rulings prohibiting figures who had been indicted, and others who had not even been formally charged, from sitting in the cabinet because they did not live up to the proper standards of conduct for public servants. In her ruling, Procaccia wrote that there was no question that legally Ramon was entitled to serve in the cabinet because the court that convicted him had not sentenced him to jail. The question was one of reasonableness. She wrote that "despite the unacceptability of Ramon's crime, it was perceived both by the court in the criminal procedure and by the government as a one-time slip which did not reflect a moral character flaw which should prevent him from holding public office. It was perceived as a momentary human weakness, based on the special, momentary circumstances." She added that the government had taken into account both his crime and his ability to contribute to the state and only after weighing the two had it decided to appoint him to the cabinet. Procaccia concluded that the decision was reasonable and that the court should not intervene. Although Arbel voted to overrule Ramon's appointment, she added that after a reasonable amount of time had passed, there would be no obstacle to his serving as a minister.