Haim Ramon says he wants to make one thing perfectly clear:
“I am a pluralist,” the Israeli cabinet minister told The Jewish Week repeatedly in a phone interview Tuesday. After reading others’ account of his remarks at a Sept. 30 meeting with dovish American Jewish activists, he denounced them as “lies.” The private meeting was reported on the front page of last week’s Jewish Week.
An initiative by Israel’s ruling One Israel party to rally American Jewish supporters of its peace policies blew up in acrimony last week over the issue of religious pluralism in the Jewish state.
Haim Ramon, a senior cabinet minister and key adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, bluntly rejected concerns about religious and civil rights for non-Orthodox Jews raised at what was to be a private briefing on the peace process for centrist and dovish Jewish groups.
The conviction of Haim Ramon, former Israeli justice minister, on an indecency charge this week, may lead to a shakeup of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition government and a re-examination of the country’s sexual harassment laws, Israeli politicians said.
Ramon, 56, a close ally of Olmert, was found guilty Wednesday by Tel Aviv’s Magistrate Court for forcibly kissing a 21-year-old soldier at a party six months ago. He faces three years in jail, and is expected to appeal the verdict.