Top Judge: Israeli Justices Exposed to Atmosphere of Incitement and Threats

Outgoing Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch tells reporters that despite efforts to undermine the courts, she believes they will remain independent.

Israel's judges are exposed to an "atmosphere of incitement and threats," outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch said on Monday.

Speaking at a meeting with reporters ahead of her retirement from the bench at the end of the month, Beinisch talked about what she sees as a deliberate and organized campaign to delegitimize Israel's judicial system.

Dorit Beinisch - Olivier Fittousi - 05012012
Olivier Fittousi

Knesset lawmakers in recent months have initiated controversial attempts to change the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee, which appoints new judges to the bench, as well as other attempts to alter the courts system.

Beinisch added that there could be additional attempts by political elements to weaken the courts, but she believes the courts will be able to withstand the assault.

She rejected data showing that the Israeli public's faith in the courts is slipping.

"If we judge based on the number of people turning to the courts, there is no falling confidence. Those who attack the courts are also turning to the courts. Everyone turns to the courts in times of distress."

She expressed the belief that the president of the Supreme Court should head the Judicial Selection Committee, instead of the Justice Minister, but admitted that given the current political realities she did not see much chance of achieve such a change.

However, she expressed optimism about the state of Israeli democracy.

"Our democracy is stronger than we think, and I believe it will persevere. I think the Supreme Court will continue to be strong and remain independent."

Beinisch also spoke for the first time about having a shoe thrown at her by Pini Cohen, who she described as a man with emotional problems.

She added that she did not feel threatened by the shoe-throwing incident, and that she returned to the court immediately after the show hit her face.

Asked about her relationship with the former Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, who she clashed with a number of times, Beinisch said, The relationship was appropriate.

Not everything sparkles. I do not miss Friedman, she added.

Beinisch has warned repeatedly in recent years about an accelerating trend toward undermining the courts.

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