Hayut: Criticism of judges by politicians 'borders on incitement'

This is not the first time Hayut has been outspoken about her judgement of political actions.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN in the portrait gallery of the Supreme Court with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN in the portrait gallery of the Supreme Court with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut attacked the political system for its “violent discourse” against the judiciary in a speech on Tuesday, claiming that the criticism of judges by Israeli politicians “borders on incitement.”
Hayut cautioned that whoever decides to attack the independent judicial system will eventually attack democracy itself.
Speaking at the “70 Years of Independence for the Legal System” conference at the President’s Residence to pay tribute to former Supreme Court president Miriam Naor, Hayut said that politicians criticizing the judiciary system see it as “anti-democratic, anti-Zionist and even [as] a judiciary dictatorship that must be crushed.” Some of these critics had even called for the dismantling of the Supreme Court.
“For the rule of the people not to turn into the tyranny of the people, we must promise to protect the rule of law and the rights of the individual, especially the rights of minorities,” Hayut said to an audience of past presidents of the Supreme Court and former attorneys-general. “The independent judiciary system and the responsibility of judiciary review are central building blocks of the system of checks and balances of Israeli government.”
She directed heavy criticism towards politicians who do not condemn others’ criticism of judges, saying that “criticism of judges by elected officials sometimes borders on incitement. When politicians do not condemn these statements, it is no wonder that some of the public sees this as a permit and permission to use the same language.”
President Reuven Rivlin, a lawyer by training, also spoke at the event. He supported Hayut’s comments, adding that an independent judiciary system operates in tandem with an independent State of Israel. “The principle of judiciary independence, or the impartiality of the judge, is a fundamental principle without which there is no law, no justice and no truth.
“We must ensure a public atmosphere that allows the judge to work with complete independence,” he continued.
“We have to distinguish between sharp disagreement that is based on deep respect for the principle of judicial independence, and attacks on the court and its judges which aim to threaten judicial independence.”
Rivlin noted that there are times when not only the court system but judges are also under threat, declaring such crossing of lines as a threat to democracy. He suggested creating a new conversation between the judiciary, legislative and executive branches of the government.
The president emphasized that judicial independence does not mean that a judge may do as he pleases, but rather must guarantee the rule of law. “We must safeguard judicial independence in order to defend ourselves,” he stated, praising jurists who courageously stood for judicial independence.
Rivlin also paid respect to the legal system when visiting the state attorney’s office for its 70th anniversary last week, where he told workers that they must not allow background noise to interfere with their judgement.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also spoke at the event, reciting the powerful history of the legal system in celebration of its 70-year independence, which occupied the attention of Jewish jurists around the world for almost a century, as it was loosely based on British law, yet included Jewish elements.
Shaked and Hayut came to honor Naor, who had fought for justice in several outstanding cases and was esteemed among superiors and colleagues alike.
This is not the first time Hayut has been outspoken in her judgments. In April, Hayut rejected efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaked to allow a veto of Supreme Court rulings by the Knesset.
In May, she spoke out against the proposal, saying that if the bill is passed, the Supreme Court would lose its independence and there would be no entity to protect the rights of the weak.
Yonah Jeremy Bob and Maariv contributed to this report.