Photo Credit: Israeli Judiciary website via Wikimedia
Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday evening swore in the new Supreme Court President, Justice Esther Hayut, and bode farewell to retiring Supreme Court President Justice Miriam Naor.

The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

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“The servants of the people and of the public are the backbone on which the covenant between the citizen and the state is based,” the President said, “The judges of Israel are appointed public servants. They are among the highest officials in charge of the public institutions. They are public servants with a long-term responsibility, which is embedded in the protection and preservation of the basic principles of the State of Israel. They are servants of the public, who do not have to answer to any authority other than the authority of the law, as stated in the Basic Law on the Judiciary.”

“The outgoing and incoming presidents are public servants in the most comprehensive sense of the term,” The President said, stressing: “They are the among the best and finest public servants the State of Israel has had. They both ascended the entire judicial ladder.”

Rivlin, who earlier this week used the occasion of opening the fall session of the Knesset to attack the eroding standards Israeli politics, practically slapping the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who was on hand at both ceremonies, told outgoing Court President, Miriam Naor, “I was reminded of the headlines that accompanied you when you entered the position of Supreme Court President. There were some who warned of your close-knit ties to the national camp. There were others who praised your supposed conservatism. But you have always been true to yourself.”

Indeed, as often happens to Israeli rightwing public servants, elected or not, Naor’s term was marked by her court’s fierce attacks against the right, most notably the settlements enterprise, and her farewell gift to the conservative rightwing in Israel was a ruling that confirmed the Tel Aviv municipality’s power to allow large-scale shopping centers to do business on Shabbat – thus forcing many business owners to stay open even if they would have preferred to observe the national day of rest.

Justice Hayut’s reputation as a jurist far outshines Naor’s. She has been described as logical and analytical, and has received high marks from colleagues and from the press for the clear style of her rulings. As to the ongoing struggle between Israel’s judiciary and the legislator, following the judicial Coup d’état of former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, Hayut is on the record as opposing the excessive Supreme Court revoking of Knesset legislation, but at the same time she has voted with the court’s majority on those same cases.

Hayut’s record is equally ambivalent on security issues. She clearly supports the government’s tendency to favor an effective war on terror versus the unavoidable harm this effort often inflicts on individual rights – but in practice she has been on the side of the “human rights” camp, most recently in calling for special court panels to decide the demolition of homes belonging to the families of Arab terrorists.

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