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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called former justice minister Haim Ramon shortly after he was convicted of indecent behavior to tell him he was "very sorry about what happened."

Other politicians also expressed support for Ramon, a Kadima member, yesterday.

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said Ramon's conviction demonstrates the need to consider changing the sexual harassment law.

"A simple misunderstanding between a man and a woman that caused severe discomfort to one should not end in conviction," he said. "You have to consider the element of aggressiveness as a necessary condition for defining the offense."

Shas chairman Minister Eli Yishai said he was sorry about Ramon's conviction and expects to see him contributing to the state again shortly.

"This is a respected public and political figure who contributed a lot to the political system in Israel," said Yishai. "I am certain he will use his right to appeal."

However, the unequivocal conviction also led to a call for Ramon's suspension from the Knesset.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party) asked Knesset House Committee head MK Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) yesterday to convene the committee to discuss suspending Ramon from the Knesset. Eldad said that since Ramon's offense involves moral turpitude, the Knesset must suspend him immediately.

The Basic Law on the Knesset st ates that any MK has the right to initiate a House Committee debate about Knesset suspensions. The committee has the power to suspend Ramon until the end of proceedings against him. In that case, Major General (Res.) Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, the next candidate on the Kadima list, would take Ramon's place.

MK Michael Eitan (Likud) said the verdict is a major victory for the attorney general and the law-enforcement system.

MK Nadia Hilou (Labor) said she trusts the court to have made the right decision, since it had all the evidence before it. "This decision has an encouraging message for women who become victims of sexual offenses," she said.

MK Yitzhak Levy (National Union-NRP) said, "The court has protected women's dignity." The ruling, he said, is also "a serious blow to the prime minister and another stage in the political disintegration of Kadima."

Women's rights advocates also welcomed the ruling.

"The verdict is seminal for normative behavior in Israeli society in general and authority relationships in particular," said Rina Bar-Tal, head of the Israel Women's Network.