Barring any last minute addition to the judiciary, Dorit Beinisch attended her
final swearing-in ceremony for 21 judges on Monday as president of the Supreme
Court.RELATED:‘Grunis Bill’ is now law
Beinisch, the Court’s first woman president, is due to step down
The proportion of female judges among the new appointees was
far lower than usual. Generally, when there is an uneven number of new judges,
women number either one more or one less than the men.
This time there
were only seven women.
Beinisch, however, pointed out that of 646 serving
judges, more than half are women who serve in all branches of the
judiciary. The new appointees will serve in district, magistrate’s,
family and traffic courts.
She added that they represent the demographic
mosaic – in that the judges are men and women, Jews and Arabs, religious and
Referring to the effort by MKs to pass an amendment that would
alter the composition of the Judges Selection Committee, Beinisch said that she
hoped that the law would remain unchanged, and that first and foremost judges
should be selected on the basis of professionalism and excellence. They should
be autonomous and not dependent on anyone, she said.
Beinisch also said
that although the court, given its function, did not fulfill the role of a
representative of the public, it certainly sat in the midst of its people and
listened to what went on around it. “The Supreme Court does not sit in an ivory
tower,” she maintained.
As she has done at every swearing-in ceremony
during the five-and-a-quarter years of her presidency, Beinisch exhorted the new
judges to remember that every case represents a human being. She urged them to
listen carefully to both sides before ruling.
President Shimon Peres, who
has often cited the democratically elected Hamas when warning of the dangers of
abuse of a democratic system, took issue with those who he said sought to
undermine the autonomy of the courts or cast doubt on the courts’
Such actions, he warned, could cause unprecedented political harm
to the State of Israel. Judges should not have to function under the threat of
the ruling administration or in the shadow of a political party. Their prime
consideration should be upholding the law and judicial ethics.
commented on the spate of new legislation that he said put democracy on shaky
ground. It was wrong to enact laws for the greater glorification of the
administration rather than for the sake of justice, he stated, even when such
laws were enacted by a democratically elected body. To do so was to disrupt the
democratic balance, he cautioned, adding that legislators were obligated to
safeguard the spirit of democracy.
Peres, who on several occasions has
condemned those who humiliate women and young girls and strip them of their
dignity, was again critical of such behavior and said that using force on buses
to enable men to sit in the front and women in the back would not be
In the same breath, he said that not all members of the haredi
community should be tarred with the same brush.
The overwhelming majority
of the community dissociated itself from violence and had said so in a loud and
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman noted that the heavy backlog
of cases, which has been bogging down the court system, is being gradually
reduced. The contribution by 21 new judges to the hearings of cases would reduce
the backlog even more, he said.
Neeman joined Peres in condemning the
recent acts of gender-related violence and said that equality was a Jewish value
that found expression in the Book of Genesis.
“We must not condone
discrimination of any kind,” said Neeman, who deplores the nation’s growing
divisiveness. “We have to do everything can to foster national unity.”