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Confidant to Olmert sentenced to community service for kiss

A court sentenced a political confidant of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to 120 hours of community service on Thursday for forcibly kissing a woman.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court concluded that former Justice Minister Haim Ramon's conduct did not constitute moral turpitude, meaning he can continue serving as a lawmaker. But legal analysts said it was not clear if public sentiment over the case will support an effort by Olmert to name him to another ministry.

Ramon had resigned his justice ministry post after the woman, known only as "H" to protect her identity, accused him of kissing her and forcing his tongue through her lips after she put her arm around him to pose for a picture. Ramon, 56, had argued that the kiss was the natural progression of her flirtation. She denied flirting with him.

The three-judge panel had in January found Ramon guilty of sexual misconduct. According to Israeli law, the judges could have chosen to cancel the conviction on Thursday to erase it from his record. While the judges said in their ruling that they recognized that the publicity surrounding the incident had hurt Ramon, they also noted the harm done to the plaintiff.

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