Dorit Beinisch, Peres_311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
As Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch stepped down from her post on Tuesday amid a moving ceremony in Jerusalem, politicians across the spectrum marked the end of a judicial era.
While those on the Left and Center were quick to laud Beinisch’s achievements during her six years as leader of the country’s most important legal institution, those on the Right were equally quick to criticize her and praise her replacement, the more conservative Justice Asher Dan Grunis.
During her term as Supreme Court president, Beinisch had drawn fire from the Right due to her High Court of Justice rulings to overturn certain laws passed by the Knesset – the most recent being the Tal Law – and to demolish illegal outpost buildings in the West Bank.
Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich praised Beinisch’s accomplishments on Tuesday morning. “[Her work has been] a rare combination of statism and protecting individual rights. The public is taking leave of an important leader, who was able to work with determination and courage in the face of pressure from government leaders,” she said.
Yacimovich said that Beinisch had left a legacy of important legal rulings, including banning corporal punishment against children and overturning a law against the privatization of prisons. “From the Labor Party, I wish the outgoing president health and long life, and that we will continue to work in the public sphere in order to transform Israeli society into one that is more just and responsible,” she added.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni spoke with Beinisch on Tuesday, and praised her for being the first woman in Israeli history to hold the role of Supreme Court president, an achievement Livni described as a “breakthrough”.
“We worked together when I was justice minister, and we had our differences,” Livni recalled, adding that Beinisch had faced a different sort of struggle in this role. “It is the struggle over what sort of country we will leave to our children.”
“The Supreme Court represents our country’s constitutional values against a group that desires to impose Halacha [Jewish law] on society, as a source of authority,” Livni said, telling Beinisch that this battle “was not a simple one for the head of the judiciary.”
“Yet you stood at the forefront of this struggle for our country’s democratic values, and for that you deserve great credit,” she concluded.
Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner praised the Beinischled Supreme Court for “maintaining its independence in the light of the unprecedented attacks emanating from those who lack a democratic tradition.”
Plesner added that Beinisch “was able to maintain appropriate balances in the relationship between the authorities, and to avoid excessive intervention in Knesset and government decisions.” However, he continued, citing the recent ruling to overturn the Tal Law, Beinisch had proved that she had the “power and legitimacy” to make such decisions when required.
“I believe that those who will replace Beinisch will be wise enough to preserve and strengthen the position of this important institution in Israeli democracy, and not to fear the inevitable dark attacks and agitation that are likely to continue in the future,” he said.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that despite their differences, he appreciated the contribution that Beinisch had made to the legal world and the State of Israel.
“There is a complex relationship between the Supreme Court and the Knesset, and a profound debate is taking place,” Rivlin said, adding that even though he and Beinisch had disagreed, they had been “respectful and businesslike.”
Politicians on the Right, particularly those who have been vocal in criticizing the Supreme Court, were less complimentary about Beinisch’s term in office.
Eretz Yisrael Shelanu chairman Baruch Marzel said before Tuesday’s farewell ceremony in the Supreme Court that he was “arriving with a bottle of wine in his hand to toast Beinisch’s retirement from her throne of judgement.”
MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) slammed Beinisch as having “taken the law into her own hands.”
Katz, who tabled the controversial “Grunis Law” passed earlier this year, which paved the way for the more conservative Justice Asher Dan Grunis to replace Beinisch, said she had displayed a “radical left ideology,” of which her rulings were “merely a tool.”
Using an archery metaphor, Katz said that Beinisch had “marked out a target with an arrow and drawn her judicial circle around it.”
“After war enacted the Grunis Law, our next step will be to legislate that the High Court of Justice will not annul laws, and immediately after that we’re going to reinstate the laws they retroactively canceled,” he said.