Dorit Beinisch - Olivier Fittousi - 05012012
Dorit Beinisch. Photo by Olivier Fittousi
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Dorit Beinisch is not the kind of Supreme Court president whose career was accompanied by fireworks. She does not have the splendor of Meir Shamgar or the sparkle of Aharon Barak. She is not a legal genius or a social revolutionary, or a princess raised to the throne. But Beinisch is an enlightened, wise fair, hardworking and brave judge, a judge with human dimensions.

Over the past five and a half years, she has been attacked without respite by incredible forces that wanted to undermine the court she heads. That is how Beinisch, against her will and not of her own volition, made history. She was the first Supreme Court president who served at war. A war for the independence of justice and a war over the supremacy of justice and a war to prevent the court from collapsing.

Beinisch's professional life story is the story of the interface between justice and Israeli politics of the last generation. As a promising and daring state prosecutor, Beinisch was involved in the 1990s in the work of the Kahan Commission on the massacres in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps; she prosecuted the Jewish underground and was the undisputed hero of the Bus 300 affair. She objected to to the expulsion of Hamas members to Lebanon, stood firm that bankers who manipulated bank shares be put on trial, and prosecuted Shas leader Aryeh Deri.

As Supreme Court justice the 2000s, Beinisch took part in outlawing corporal punishment for children, limiting the Economic Arrangements Law, making conversion easier and outlawing the army from using the "military procedure." In the very important Yissacharov case, she determined that illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible. And as Supreme Court president, Beinisch required the state to reinforce and protect the schools in Sderot and prevented the privatization of prisons. She was left in the minority when she objected to the Citizenship Law and when she wanted to deny the plea bargain agreement in the Moshe Katsav rape case.

But ultimately, the most important job that Dorit Beinisch carried out in the past five and a half years was that of guardian of the gate. The attack on her court was unprecedented, and carried out by all types: politicians, journalists, lawyers and professors; right-wing Israelis, whether religious or not; the political center; and business elites. A powerful array of forces that was furious about Barak's constitutional revolution - but did not dare to challenge Barak - rose up against his successor, Beinisch.

The strong woman from Jerusalem became the child with her finger in the dike. She stood alone against former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, who led the unbridled attack on the justice system. She stood against Justice Minster Yaakov Neeman, who led a sophisticated battle against the legal system. She stood alone in the face of the incitement and legislative attacks of Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. Like a lioness, Dorit Beinisch defended Israeli courts in the face of all comers - along with Israeli enlightenment and human rights.

The outgoing president of the Supreme Court is no saint. She has repeatedly employed factionalism and played into the hands of detractors who sought to depict her as a symbol of the arrogance and inflexibility of the elites from Rehavia. But in practice, Beinisch is a rather humble person who gets to the point right away. She is proud, not of her judicial activism but of the administrative improvements she introduced into the courts.

Nonetheless, after five and a half years, the first female president of the Supreme Court will be remembered for her battles, and ultimately for fight for constitutional democracy in Israel.