Supreme Court justices past and present with President Rivlin
Supreme Court justices past and present with President RivlinMark Neyman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday bade farewell to the leadership of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

The President was accompanied by President of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut and former presidents of the court Aharon Barak, Asher Grunis, Edna Arbel and Miriam Naor. The current Supreme Court justices were joined by retired judges of the court who also came to take leave of the president.

Hayut said, “There is no doubt that some of the three sides of the triangle that form the branches of government have presented you, Mr. President, with considerable challenges over your term of office. But you, loyal to your statesmanlike way, wisely dealt with those challenges successfully and bravely. More than once, you felt it appropriate to speak starkly and even with a tone of reproach when you believed that it was called for, and you did so because of the genuine love you feel for the people and the country and from genuine concern for our future and our unity. It is no secret that in previous positions you held, including Speaker of the Knesset, you did not spare the legal system and the Supreme Court from your harsh criticism, but along with it you fully understood the importance of an independent judiciary and you made sure to protect its standing and status in the fabric of Israeli governance.”

Barak began his farewell speech by invoking the memory of Nechama Rivlin. “We miss your wife. She was a large part of the friendship between us. Our relationship goes back for many years. I was your teacher for many subjects, and we kept in touch. The relationship strengthened when you were Knesset Speaker and then the clashes between us also intensified. Then, you were annoyed by what was happening at that time and some of my white hairs are because of the confrontations with Ruvi, but we always maintained our friendship and it even grew. As President, the ties between us grew stronger. We spoke a great deal about Basic Law: The Constitution because we are both great disciples of it.”

Barak added, “I see you as a very important shield of the courts system. You had your criticism, but it was balanced. I am very sorry about the end of your term in office. The voices that defend the courts system today are very few and it is so important that your voice is heard and so important that you continue to make it heard. The job has ended, but everything continues. Our relationship continues and each one of us will, in their own way, continue to protect the values that lead our Jewish and democratic state because if we do not protect them, nobody will protect us.”

The president thanked the president and the judges of the court for their moving parting, and said, “The Israeli judicial system is, without a doubt, one of its greatest accomplishments and one of the clearest expressions of the Zionist dream and of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. In a way that draws directly from the world of Jewish thought, the Israeli courts system grows directly from deep traditions of discourse and altercation. Because of its deep familiarity with the weight of responsibility that falls on those who sit in judgement, the system of judgement in the Israeli judicial system does not shrink from decisive rulings but it does so from a deep commitment to hearing all sides, all arguments, and hearing their voice. This reflects a real, deeply-rooted believe in the importance of the range of views and beliefs that live alongside each other, and our commitment to each other even when our views are different.”

The President continued, saying, “Over my years as a public servant in Israel we did not always see eye to eye. We had disagreements, but they were always disagreements for the sake of heaven. I always stood before you humbly, full of appreciation and respect for what you represent as you sit in Israel’s courts, the renaissance of the Jewish people on our land, our ability to hold together the scales of justice and the sword of judgement, and the building of an independent judiciary that sees nothing but the rule of law. It is a strong legal system that is respected and admired the world over. And what is it if not the practical embodiment of the Zionist dream?”

“No citizen – left or right – would want to live in a country where the judiciary was not independent, strong and effective. All of us, as citizens of the State of Israel, want to live in a country where our judges are inspired only by their respect for the law. Along with our elected officials, the independent judiciary is a vital anchor in the existence of a democratic state. We are all duty-bound to protect it from harm,” he added.

“At the end of my term of office as President of the State of Israel, and on behalf of all Israelis, I would like to thank you for your dedicated, professional, wise, prudent and faithful service to the people and the country,” said the President in conclusion.