Rubinstein to retire from court today

Rubinstein, 70, had a storied career even before he joined the Supreme Court.

June 12, 2017 23:57
3 minute read.

ELYAKIM RUBINSTEIN. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Deputy Supreme Court President Elyakim Rubinstein is set to step down on Tuesday after 13 years on the country’s top bench.

Rubinstein, 70, had a storied career even before he joined the Supreme Court.

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His public service career started in the 1970s working as a top legal aide and eventual chief of staff to Moshe Dayan at both the Defense and Foreign ministries.

In that capacity, he was one of the key negotiators of the 1978 Camp David peace accords with Egypt.

Later, Rubinstein served in a variety of foreign affairs roles, including as a top interlocutor between Israel and the US, and as cabinet secretary in multiple coalition governments.

During the 1991 Madrid peace conference, he represented Israel in the peace negotiations.

In the mid-1990s, Rubinstein was chief negotiator of the 1995 peace treaty with Jordan.

From 1995-1997, Rubinstein had a brief stint as a district court judge.

From 1997-2004, he served as attorney- general, where he helped non-orthodox persons ascend to religious councils for the first time and tried to negotiate a non-orthodox prayer section near the Western Wall.

Rubinstein at different points in time criminally investigated and declined to investigate Shas party founder Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for various alleged incitement against public officials.

In the case of former president Ezer Weizman, his instruction to Weizman to turn over various documents as part of a probe eventually led to Weizman’s resignation.

He was accused of slow-peddling a criminal probe of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, but ultimately his successor, Menachem Mazuz, closed the file without an indictment.

Upon completing his term as attorney- general, he ascended to the Supreme Court, and in 2015, became the court’s deputy president.

During his term in the Supreme Court, he was known as a moderate conservative who flipped to the liberal side of the spectrum on some major rulings.

He was ready to challenge the status quo on a number of issues with the haredi sector, including joining the majority of the court in striking down the Tal Law as granting an unconstitutional blanket exemption to haredim from serving in the IDF.

Moreover, Rubinstein was involved in rulings granting greater legitimacy to non-orthodox conversions and to the use of mikvaot, Jewish ritual baths, by the non-orthodox.

Rubinstein also ruled against the haredi sector where it sought to assert itself more in the public sphere, rejecting haredi attempts to gender segregate buses.

He was not afraid to confront the government on top policy issues, such as when he voted in the majority to strike down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s natural gas policy. His ruling against the policy came despite an unprecedented personal appearance by Netanyahu before the court to argue for the policy.

The religious-Zionist judge also based some of his rulings on Mishpat Ivri, integrating traditional Jewish religious law with modern Israeli law.

For example, when he ruled that parents could deduct childcare expenses from their taxes and when he invalidated a Beit Shemesh mayoral election for fraud, he extensively cited traditional Jewish law sources.

But Rubinstein was never a consistent member of the court’s liberal wing.

He ruled that the country’s law for force-feeding hunger-striking Palestinian detainees was constitutional, and generally deferred to the government on national security issues.

In addition, he ruled in favor of the state demolishing multiple Beduin villages in the South to relocate them and make room for new Jewish towns.

He was also part of a 5-4 majority upholding an admissions committees law that hundreds of small villages are allegedly using to reject housing applications from certain populations such as Israeli-Arabs, homosexuals and the disabled.

Rubinstein is married, has four children and 11 grandchildren.

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