As public preoccupation with the war between Hezbollah and Israel is receding, the Israeli media is devoting increasing attention to a series of sexual and financial scandals involving top Israeli political and military leaders, one of which led to the resignation today of Israel’s Justice Minister, Haim Ramon.

The Israeli press published a series of reports over the past few days indicating that top Israeli leaders, including President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Justice Minister Haim Ramon as well as an influential lawmaker may face possible prosecution for sexual harassment, favoritism, nepotism and corruption.

On Thursday, 17 August, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that a former employee at Katsav’s official residence in West Jerusalem told police investigators that he (Katsav) coerced her into sex.

The woman, who had been questioned by the police in connection with the affair, alleged that the President “had used his position to coerce here into having sexual relations with him.”

According to Ha’aretz, when the unidentified woman was subjected to a lie detector test last week, during which she was questioned about her purported sexual contacts with Katsav, she answered several questions truthfully.

The Israeli press didn’t elaborate on the alleged sexual contacts between Katsav and the woman.

Katsav two months ago wrote to Attorney General Menachem Mazzuz complaining that the woman in question had tried to extort him, threatening to that if he denied her requests, she would accuse him of sexual harassment.

Ramon’s affair

Meanwhile, police said this week they have amassed sufficient evidence to indict Justice Minister Haim Ramon for sexual harassment of a government worker.

According to the Hebrew press, the evidence showed that Ramon forcibly kissed a woman employee as she was leaving a party at the Israeli defense ministry in Tel Aviv last month.

Police interrogators were quoted as saying that they expected an indictment might be served against Ramon in a few days.

“The investigation team must prove the existence of the situation in which two people-Ramon and the young woman-were alone. In addition, it also must be determined whether the incident falls under the law regarding harassment,” said a police investigator.

Ramon reportedly retorted to the charges, saying that “the kiss was consensual,” which the woman denied.

Observers have interpreted Ramon’s exceptionally hawkish stand with regard to the Lebanon war as an attempt to cloud the affair which preceded the outbreak of the war.

Ramon, a former Laborite dove, called on the Israeli army to assassinate Hezbullah leader Hasan Nasrullah and obliterate any town or village in Southern Lebanon from which Katyusha rockets were fired on northern Israel.

Political appointments

Another scandal, involving Knesset Member Tzachi Hanegbi, a former minister and Likud extremist who joined the Kadima party founded last year by former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

This week, the State Prosecutor Office announced that it will indict Hanegbi within a few weeks over political appointments he allegedly made while acting as Environment Minister.

Hanegbi, now Chairman of the important Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reportedly agreed to waive his parliamentary immunity.

According to Israeli sources, Hanegbi and the Director General of the Environment Ministry acted in a premeditated and systematic manner to secure the appointment of Likud Central Committee members, their sons, daughters, friends and so on, to as many jobs and positions in the ministry as possible while violating the general public’s chance to compete for these jobs and positions, often without regard for their qualifications and suitability for the post.

Illegal benefits

Even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing corruption charges and likely to be questioned by police on suspicions that he and his wife Aliza were given an exorbitant discount on the purchase price of a luxurious garden apartment in West Jerusalem.

According to the Israeli Comptroller’s findings, the Olmerts purchased the apartment in October, 2004, for $1.2 million while its true market value ranged between $1.6 million and $1.8 million. This means that the Olmerts received a discount ranging between $400,000 to $600,000.

Interestingly, Olmert’s predecessor Ariel Sharon and his son, Omri, were also implicated in a huge financial scandal known as the “Greek Island” whereby Sharon indirectly received large amount of cash from a Jewish businessman in return for using Sharon’s influence to facilitate the purchase of a small Greek Island the businessman wanted to turn into a tourist attraction.

Sharon, who has been in a comma for several months, was eventually exonerated of any wrong doing, but his son, Omri, was convicted on charges of bribery and sentenced to a few months in jail.

However, Omri managed to evade prison, benefiting from extenuating circumstances, including the lingering illness of his father.