(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a widely expected move, Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch was unanimously approved Thursday by a judicial committee to be the next Supreme Court President, becoming the first woman to be elected to the august legal position.
Beinisch, 64, who will be sworn in as president of Israel's highest court next Thursday, will replace court president Aharon Barak who is retiring that day after a feisty 11-year term as court president.
President Moshe Katsav, who is under investigation for alleged rape and sexual harassment, said Thursday that he would not attend Beinisch's swearing in ceremony.
"In light of the police investigation, it is not fitting that the president will conduct the swearing ceremony of the incoming president of the Supreme Court," an official announcement from the President's Residence said.
"The president prefers not to take part in the ceremony in order to avoid controversy around the appointment."
Beinisch's appointment was quickly welcomed across the political spectrum.
"I am certain that Justice Beinisch's vast legal experience... will lead the legal system to new accomplishments," said Acting Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit, who appointed her to the post last month.
He added that it was an "honor" that the legal system in Israel had been headed by Barak, with whom Beinisch was closely allied, and who served as her disciple.
Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On called the election of the first female president of the Supreme Court "an important day for the legal system," while Labor MK Orit Noked said that a "very worthy" justice had been elected, who will be able to "step into Barak's shoes."
"I hope and expect that the values of Judaism as well as the legacy of the Jewish people, and the safety and security for the State of Israel will guide the justice in her decisions," said MK Uri Ariel (National Union-NRP), who joined his fellow parliamentarians on the left and center in welcoming her election.
Over the last several years of Palestinian violence, many of the Supreme Court justices, including Barak, have often been viewed as being out of sync with mainstream public opinion, especially regarding security-related issues such as the construction of the separation barrier that snakes between Israel and the West Bank.