Women's groups outraged that Ramon is acting PM

Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who nearly quit politics following his sexual harassment conviction for forcibly kissing a female soldier last year, reached a pinnacle on Sunday when he became Israel's acting prime minister. According to the law, an acting prime minister must be appointed when the prime minister is abroad. Normally that title goes automatically to the deputy prime minister, who is currently Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. But Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are attending the same conference in Paris, so a telephone poll of ministers was conducted Saturday night to formally give Ramon the title of acting prime minister until Olmert returns. Olmert's associates considered at one point that if Olmert quit the premiership and then quit the leadership of the caretaker government that would automatically be formed in its stead, he would see to it that Ramon became acting prime minister during the 90-day election period, and not Livni. That option is seen as less likely now that a September primary has been set in Kadima to choose Olmert's successor. Ramon told reporters following Thursday's Kadima council meeting that he did not believe whoever won the primary would be able to form a government, and therefore Olmert could remain prime minister until a general election was held in the spring. Women's organizations expressed outrage on Sunday at Ramon's temporary appointment. "Just as it is illegitimate for Olmert to be prime minister because of his alleged scandals, we believe that it is illegitimate for Ramon to be in politics at all, let alone acting prime minister," said Adi Dagan, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Women for Peace, which led the protests against Ramon's return to politics. "Ramon is a convicted sex offender and his return to Israeli politics is shameful," she said. "It stains Israel, and it sends a dangerous message to other sex offenders."