Olmert's Moral Turpitude

Like every proper boss, Olmert should have called Ramon to order, just as a CEO does when he is informed that one of his directors is suspected of a crime.

Lots of advice was given last week to the complainant against Kadima MK Haim Ramon. People tried to teach H. how she should have behaved in order to prevent the kiss, or to stop Ramon's intrusion into her mouth.

True, she should not have draped herself over his stomach. It would have been better had she embraced his shoulders, and if she couldn't reach his shoulders because of the height difference, she should have linked arms. It would have been better had she not suggested he accompany her abroad, and had she not given him her phone number.

But do those same respected women who complained that she did not make her disgust clear by slapping Ramon remember themselves at age 21? Were they really so heroic that they would have walloped a senior government minister in the Prime Minister's Bureau?

Many are blessed with clear hindsight with respect to Ramon. He should have apologized right at the outset and spared himself the trial, he should have refrained from defaming the complainant and bringing additional evidence that she had flirted with him. But few have thought to give Ramon's best friends this treatment, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in particular.

As a public figure, Ramon should have been judged in the public arena, not in the legal arena. Blighting him as a sex offender cheapens the concept. If Ramon is a sex offender, what will happen if President Moshe Katsav is also found guilty as a sex offender? Where is the proportionality? The punishment will be different, but the label is the same label, and the destruction is the same destruction.

Setting social norms is not the role of the court, but rather a byproduct of clarifying criminal charges against an individual. Had there been a disciplinary court, it would have found Ramon guilty of unseemly conduct, a message that is far more accurate and more reasonable than the one sent by the court. It would have been difficult to attack such a ruling.

There is no doubt that Ramon's conduct did not befit his status as justice minister and a government member who helps determine, among other things, whether to go to war. However, it is easy to cast aspersions on the judges' verdict and thus sabotage recent years' progress in making sexual harassment taboo. The Israel Defense Forces has internalized it: H.'s commanders and colleagues supported her, and even convinced her to file a complaint.

From the moment the complaint was filed, the person who above all should have served as an example and thus set the public line in this wretched affair was Ramon's boss, along with his colleagues, the government ministers and Knesset members who so love the mischievous charmer. But from most of them we did not hear a word of criticism, certainly not from his party. At most they paid lip service and remarked on his hastiness. But an indecent act? Our Haimkeh?

Olmert was not only Ramon's boss, but also H.'s. She worked in his office in Tel Aviv. Like every proper boss, he should have called Ramon to order, just as a CEO does when he is informed that one of his directors is suspected of a crime.

At the very least, he should have publicly reprimanded Ramon, if not fired him. But Olmert not only kept silent; on the day the verdict was handed down, he phoned his friend and commiserated with him.

Never mind support for the bad in private. But to publish a statement about it and to go so far as to say, "The prime minister expressed profound sadness at the conviction of his friend Haim Ramon?" Why isn't Olmert profoundly sad about his friend's crude conduct? Why isn't he sad about the anguish he and Ramon caused his employee?

It was also reported that the prime minister was astonished by the judges' decision. Why was he astonished? The message he is sending to the public is that the judges' decision is not worthy.

Though it is a bit hard to see the Olmert who is harried by police investigations as a moral compass, he would have won credit in the eyes of many had he publicly come out against Ramon. Presumably, dissociation from the acts of the establishment's darling would also have dictated the media's line.

The fact that Olmert and his colleagues do not understand the gravity of Ramon's deeds testifies to the extent that the road to instilling a code of ethical conduct toward women in Israeli society will be long and hard.