Traditionally, when a Supreme Court President retires from the bench, as President Esther Hayut is about to do on Thursday, October 26, he or she is treated to a ceremony at the President’s residence with the Justice Minister as the keynote speaker, singing his or her praise.
Because of that part, Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s speech, Supreme Court President Ester Hayut canceled her retirement ceremony at the President’s residence. The official reason was that since Minister Levin had failed to convene the committee to elect judges to pick Hayut’s replacement at the helm, there was no point in saying goodbye to her without the president’s swearing in a new chief justice.
Of course, nobody bought this explanation, because everybody knows Hayut and Levin have not been on friendly terms since January when the minister announced his judicial reform and the chief justice attacked it publicly before a cheering crowd. The last thing Hayut wants is to hear what Levin has to say about her at her retirement party.
The Courts Administration asked Levin not to deliver a keynote speech or any speech at Hayut’s retirement party, on the grounds that there are still court cases pending against Levin. They were referring to the petitions calling on the High Court of Justice to compel Levin to convene the committee to elect judges. This is sheer nonsense, of course, because there are always cases pending against serving justice ministers, and it never kept any of them in the past from delivering the farewell speech for a retiring court president.
In the end, it appears that Levin will be invited to Hayut’s retirement ceremony, but it won’t be at the president’s residence and Levin won’t be speaking.
Levin upset Hayut and the powers that be in the judicial system when he refused to approve Justice Yitzhak Amit’s appointment to replace Hayut based on the seniority system, which is not a legal requirement but has been the court’s tradition for years. The justice minister is not happy with the seniority system, and he is even less happy with the choice of Amit as Hayut’s successor, seeing as he is even more of a leftist activist than she has been.
Justice Yosef Elron, a relative newcomer to the Supreme Court, has thrown his towel in the ring, announcing he wanted the job, an unheard-of move. Elron is a conservative and Levin certainly prefers him over Amit, but to get Elron appointed Levin must convene the committee to elect judges, and he is not going to do it before the current formula for choosing committee members is changed to favor the right.