Justice Elyakim Rubinstein
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein Israel news photo: Flash 90

Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein on Monday joined the Court’s president, Justice Dorit Beinisch, in criticizing the latest Knesset legislative initiatives regarding the Supreme Court.

Speaking at a conference at the Bar Ilan University, Rubinstein said, “I am reading some of the things that have been written about the Supreme Court and they seem to be out of touch with reality.”

“The Court is not immune from criticism and substantive criticism is welcome,” he added, “but if we place on a scale the legitimate criticism which can be made about the Supreme Court against the Court’s contribution to society - I have no doubt the latter will prevail big time.”

“Think about issues like appointments of officials or issues of land - without the court these issues would fall into murky political marshes,” said Rubinstein, a former Attorney General. “Ask senior civil servants how things would be without the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court didn’t exist it would have to be invented - for the weakened citizens, for citizens with disabilities, for minorities, for those who may be affected by the majority. The Supreme Court does not seek to hurt the government or the Knesset as some claim.”

Rubinstein’s comments come in the wake of recently approved legislation that would enable the appointment of rightists to the Supreme Court – a fact which has caused great discomfort to leftists.

The bills call for the automatic appointment of the Bar Association president to the Judge Selection Committee, and also allow the appointment of a Supreme Court Chief Justice with only two years remaining until retirement. This means that Justice Asher Grunis, who is against the activist Supreme Court policy initiated by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, could be appointed to serve as the next president instead of Justice Miriam Naor.

A third bill seeking to institute the concept of locus standi – legal standing – in Israel’s courts, was killed in a ministerial committee after Netanyahu expressed his opposition to the bills and vowed to protect the court.

Last week, Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch railed at critics and charged that “incitement” is undermining what she claimed is the judiciary’s ability to protect the country's "democratic values.”

Apparently bothered by the charges that justices practice a procedure of replacing themselves with like-minded people, she said, “Supreme Court judges did not grow up as aristocrats. They worked and put efforts into their professional achievements. Why incite against them?”

Her remarks, particularly the use of the word incitement, were met with criticism by several MKs.