Ramon comes back to Knesset for first time since conviction

Former justice minister gets warm welcome; women's groups say his return brings shame.

haim ramon thinks 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haim ramon thinks 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former justice minister Haim Ramon returned to the Knesset for the first time on Monday since his conviction for sexually harassing a 20-year-old female soldier last year. Ramon, who had not entered the Knesset for nine months, was greeted by Kadima ministers and MKs with hugs and kisses. MK Ronit Tirosh kissed him - consensually - on both cheeks and said, "You are resurrecting Kadima." Ramon entered the Kadima faction meeting and sat down between Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Minister-Without-Portfolio Ya'acov Edri with a big smile on his face. The former justice minister told reporters that there had been days that he'd thought he would not come back to the Knesset, but said that "if I were fed up, I wouldn't have come back." Ramon added that the court said very clearly that he could return to politics and "almost begged him" to come back to the Knesset. In the Kadima faction meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he missed Ramon and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik made a similar statement from the Knesset plenum podium. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who criticized Ramon's return on Sunday, welcomed Ramon with a hug and wished him well. MKs Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and Limor Livnat (Likud) said that even though the court had permitted Ramon's return it was still "not proper" for a convicted sexual harasser to serve in the Knesset. A coalition of women's groups released a statement saying that Ramon's return brought shame to the Knesset. Ramon is expected to make a decision after the May 28 Labor primary about whether to accept Olmert's unofficial invitation to return to the cabinet. Meanwhile, Labor MK Ami Ayalon's campaign released a statement denying reports that Ayalon was willing to sit in a government run by Olmert. The campaign said Ayalon had clearly stated that Olmert should quit and promised that if Ayalon were elected, he would work to form a government without Olmert. Earlier, Channel 10 reported that an official close to Olmert had met with Ayalon and told him that if Ayalon kept Labor in the government, he would be offered the Defense Ministry and his running mate MK Avishay Braverman would be offered the finance portfolio. Olmert's office denied the report. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to the report.