The festive ceremony at the President’s Residence on Wednesday, in which 23 judges and court registrars declared their allegiance to the State of Israel and to the law, was overshadowed by the unresolved kidnapping last week of yeshiva students Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer.

President Shimon Peres began his address at the ceremony by referring to the three abducted youngsters, saying that “six days have passed since our three sons were kidnapped. They are sons dear to the nation, dear to all of us. The IDF and the security forces are devoting days and nights to bring about their return to their families. I hope with all my being to see them healthy and well and at home.”

There is no doubt that the kidnapping of the boys is an act of terrorism and a heinous crime, Peres said, adding that the IDF will continue in its pursuit of the perpetrators and of their leaders.

“We will find every terrorist and ensure that they are suitably punished” he said.

During his seven years as president, Peres said, he had gained the impression that the status of the justice system had improved, and attributed this in part to the large number of new judges and to an increase in the number of female judges and young judges.

In his speech, Peres reminded the judges that justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done, adding that justice is the most valued mainstay of democracy.

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis also referred to the victims of the kidnapping, and said he hopes to see them speedily returned to their families. Like Peres, Grunis emphasized that the role of a judge is to seek justice and to uphold the values of democracy.

He referred to efforts undertaken to make the justice system more efficient, such as increasing the number of judges and shortening the period of time in which a case should be heard and ruled on. Grunis noted that this was the last time Peres was presiding over the swearing in of judges, and added that during his tenure the president had overseen the appointment of over 400 judges.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, also speaking of Peres, said that it was impossible to describe the extent of the enormous respect that the outgoing president is granted around the world. Livni referred to the kidnapping, and placed the blame squarely on Hamas, which she called a terrorist organization that acts against Israel’s very existence, and which wants to prevent Israel from living in peace with its neighbors.

“Terror is terror is terror” whichever way you look at it, she said.

Livni characterized Hamas as a radical Islamist terrorist organization that acts without limits, law or legitimacy.

With regard to the kidnapped students, Livni said that “we cannot return to business as usual until the boys are returned home.”

As a democracy, she said, Israel lives in the most difficult of realities because “the conflict has permeated our daily lives,” adding that she was proud that despite this Israel has succeeded in safeguarding its democratic values, which are expressed through the law.

Peres, Grunis and Livni each underscored the importance of the public having confidence in the justice system.

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