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.

By Tamar Beeri, Greer Fay Cashman

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

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

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.


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