Barak Retires as Supreme Court President Today; Beinisch to Be Sworn in as Replacement

A significant era in Israel's legal history will come to an end this morning: Supreme Court President Aharon Barak will retire from his post, two days before his 70th birthday.

At a festive ceremony at the court attended by all the Supreme Court justices, as well as retired justices, friends and luminaries of the judicial world, Barak will reply to charges that he is "a judge who saw human rights, but not the individual." Barak's speech is expected to be personal, while also addressing the issues of principle that characterized his term as president, topped by relations between the judicial and legislative branches.

The Supreme Court's incoming president, Justice Dorit Beinisch, will also speak, as will Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the head of the Israel Bar Association, Shlomo Cohen.

The invitation-only ceremony will be followed by a cocktail party in the cafeteria grounds.

Court officials stressed yesterday that today's retirement ceremony will be identical to the retirement ceremonies held for other retiring justices, and far more modest than the ceremony held in 1995 for Barak's predecessor as president, Meir Shamgar.

During the second part of the ceremony, the justices and former justices will ascend to the floor where the justices have their chambers for the unveiling of Barak's portrait, which will hang alongside the portraits of previous Supreme Court presidents. This part of the ceremony, which will be closed to the press, will be followed by a luncheon.

In the afternoon, the entire entourage will move to the nearby Knesset for Beinisch's inauguration as Supreme Court president, which will take place in the Chagall State Hall, instead of in the President's Residence, as is usual. Beinisch will be sworn in by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who will be serving as acting state president following the House Committee's approval of President Moshe Katsav's request to be declared "temporarily unable" to perform his duties for one day.

Barak and Beinisch will also speak at this ceremony, which will be attended by many more senior officials, from all branches of government, than usually attend such ceremonies.

Among the invitees are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who will also speak; the rest of the cabinet; the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff; the police commissioner; the heads of the security services; lower court presidents from throughout the country; retired judges; and Knesset members.

Beinisch will take possession of her new chambers at the Supreme Court today or Sunday. Barak will relocate to the second floor of the Supreme Court library, where retired justices have their chambers, upon his return from a two-week vacation in the United States, for which he leaves tonight.

Next week, Beinisch and the new Courts Administration director, Moshe Gal, will begin implementing her administrative credo in the court system.

Yesterday, the High Court of Justice threw out a petition by right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir that sought to prevent Katsav from declaring himself temporarily incapacitated, prevent the Knesset House Committee from approving his declaration, and prevent Itzik from serving as acting president. It also sought an injunction to prevent Beinisch from being sworn in today.