Olmert names disgraced ally as deputy PM


Posted Wed Jul 4, 2007 11:37pm AEST

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has named his disgraced ally Haim Ramon, who was convicted of sexual misconduct this year, Deputy Prime Minister in a cabinet reshuffle.

His decision was approved by the cabinet and with parliamentary approval a formality.

Mr Ramon returns to the government six months after he was found guilty of committing an "indecent act" by forcibly kissing a woman soldier.

Mr Olmert nominated Mr Ramon, a close ally in his centrist Kadima party, to replace elder statesman Shimon Peres, who was elected head of state on June 13 to succeed Moshe Katsav, facing his own conviction for sex offences.

On Tuesday, a religious feminist organisation appealed to the high court against Mr Ramon's nomination, branding it "amoral" and "unacceptable".

The Israeli Government has been hammered by a series of corruption probes implicating Mr Olmert and his subordinates, including Finance Minister Avraham Hirshson who resigned at the weekend amid police inquiries for embezzlement.

On March 29, Mr Ramon was handed a lenient sentence of just 120 hours of community service and a $3,300 ($A3860) fine, clearing the way for him to keep his seat in parliament and return to the cabinet.

He had resigned as justice minister last August, after he was accused of forcibly kissing the soldier at a party on July 12, the day Israel launched its devastating war against Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. He denied the charges.

Mr Ramon helped found Kadima with former premier Ariel Sharon and is considered one of the closest allies of Mr Olmert.