Arab justices make history

June 14, 2017 04:04

Joubran becomes Supreme Court deputy chief, Kara takes seat on bench.

2 minute read.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN congratulates Supreme Court Deputy President Salim Joubran at his swearing-i

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN congratulates Supreme Court Deputy President Salim Joubran at his swearing-in ceremony yesterday, as the court’s president, Miriam Naor (center), and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stand by. (photo credit: CHAIM ZACH / GPO)

For the first time at a swearing-in ceremony at the President’s Residence of Supreme Court justices, Arabs were in the majority. Admittedly there were only three judges, one of who was already on the court but who was promoted to the rank of deputy president, succeeding Elyakim Rubinstein, but the two others, who had chalked up admirable records in the lower courts, were newcomers to the Supreme Court. One was an Orthodox Jew and the other was an Arab.

The two Arabs were born in Israel – Salim Joubran in Acre and George Kara in Jaffa, while the Jewish judge, David Mintz, was born in Britain and came on aliya when he was 11.

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Both Joubran and Kara are Christians, though Muslims do serve as judges in the lower courts.

Judges must retire at age 70, although they can continue to serve on cases that they begin before they reached that milestone. Supreme Court President Miriam Naor who will turn 70 in October said that this year signifies the end of an era in the court, because the judges who are retiring are the last to have had Palestine birth certificates.

Referring to Joubran as her soul mate, she said that no one was more deserving of the role of deputy president than he. She was also pleased that for the first time there will be two Arab judges on the Supreme Court, “albeit only for a short time.” Joubran will turn 70 on August 4.

Naor underscored Joubran’s integrity, saying that he had opted to forgo the increase in salary to which he was entitled, and likewise the additional pension rights.

Joubran said that it was more important to him that his appointment had opened a door for other Arab judges.

Naor also mentioned that Joubran was the first Arab to serve as chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

Joubran said that Arabs are still fighting a battle for equality. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” he said.

With regard to Rubinstein, Joubran praised his wisdom, his phenomenal range of knowledge and his exemplary judgment, but what he singled out for special mention were the witty notes that Rubinstein passed to him in perfect Arabic in either prose or poetry and related to any situation of the moment.

President Reuven Rivlin referred to the controversy over whether seniority should determine who the next Supreme Court president should be. The law does not specify under what conditions the president of the Supreme Court should be appointed, he said.

The Knesset did not determine whether seniority is a good thing, nor did it determine that it was a bad thing. “It decided not to decide.” Up till now, seniority has been a matter of tradition, said Rivlin, and some excellent judges have held the position.

He regretted the latter-day disputes between the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and said that these squabbles were eroding public confidence.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said she was opposed to the Supreme Court dealing with political issues that she said were the prerogative of the Knesset.

“I want the court to do what it’s supposed to do,” Shaked said.

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