Beinisch Takes Fight Against Graft, Jewish Extremism to Supreme Court

Incoming Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, nee Werba, was born in Tel Aviv in 1942, the daughter of a teacher and a tax official. In high school, her classmates included Uriel Reichman, now a law professor and political activist, and Daniel Barenboim, now a well-known conductor. She did her army service as a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces' Personnel Directorate. After being demobilized, she began studying law at Hebrew University.

It was there that she first met two young law professors, Aharon Barak and Mishael Cheshin, who later became president and deputy president, respectively, of the Supreme Court. It was also there that she met her future husband, Yehezkel Beinisch, himself a successful attorney.

Upon Barak's recommendation, Beinisch did her legal intership in the Justice Ministry's legislation department. She then worked as a Jerusalem prosecutor until she completed her master's degree, after which she moved to the State Prosecutor's Office.

At this time, Cheshin was heading the office's High Court of Justice division. When he was promoted to deputy attorney general, Beinisch replaced him as head of this division.

In 1982, Beinisch was promoted to deputy state prosecutor. In this capacity, she headed the team that collected information for the state commission of inquiry into the Sabra and Chatila massacres in Lebanon - a commission whose members included Barak.

Beinisch was active in the fight against Jewish extremists. She headed a team of prosecutors that eventually secured convictions against a group known as the Jewish Underground, which carried out attacks against Palestinians in the territories, and after they were sentenced, she appealed the sentences as being too lenient. She also represented the state in various legal proceedings that eventually resulted in Meir Kahane's Kach Party being barred from the Knesset.

Beinisch also focused on fighting corruption, as exemplified by one of the most difficult cases in which she was involved: the Bus 300 affair, in which, following the hijacking of Bus 300, Shin Bet security service agents stormed the bus and captured two terrorists - whom they then murdered. The agents then tried to cover up the killings by lying to an investigative committee. Beinisch was appointed by then attorney general Yitzchak Zamir to handle the case, and, together with two other prosecutors, fought against both the government and the Shin Bet to expose the lies. Her efforts provoked an angry backlash, which ranged from rumors that she was having an affair with one of the Shin Bet agents who blew the whistle on the scandal to threats against her life.

The case also resulted in the government dismissing Zamir, and Beinisch responded by refusing to cooperate with Zamir's successor, Yosef Harish.

In 1989, Beinisch was appointed state prosecutor, the first woman ever to hold this post. In this capacity, she supervised the lengthy investigation, trial and eventual conviction of then Shas Party chairman and former interior minister Aryeh Deri. She also refused to represent Yitzhak Rabin's government in the High Court when a petition was filed against its decision to deport 415 Hamas members to Lebanon.

During her tenure as state prosecutor, special units were set up in the Justice Ministry to investigate complaints against policemen and Shin Bet agents.

In December 1995, a few months after Barak became Supreme Court president, Beinisch was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Her close friend Edna Arbel replaced her as state prosecutor, and in 2004, at Beinisch's urging, Arbel was also appointed to the Supreme Court.

While on the court, Beinisch usually sided with one or both of her two former mentors, Barak and Cheshin (who did not always agree with each other).

One of Beinisch's most famous and controversial rulings as a justice was a decision banning even mild parental spanking. Corporal punishment, she wrote, violated the child's right to dignity and bodily integrity. She also sat on the bench that assailed the annual Economic Arrangements Law that accompanies every state budget as anti-democratic and urged the Knesset to scrap it, though the justices ultimately declined to overturn the law.

In addition, she headed a committee that recommended allowing High Court hearings to be televised.

Until her promotion to the court presidency, she served as chair of the Central Elections Commission; now, however, this job will be taken over by the court's new deputy pr esident, Eliezer Rivlin. Beinisch has also been a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee for many years, and will continue to serve on this panel in her new capacity.