And Justices All Four

A common gripe among lawyers who appear frequently before the Supreme Court bench is that most of the justices who serve in Israel's highest judicial instance are "gray" and boring. It appears, however, that none of the four new justices appointed yesterday to the Supreme Court can be described that way.

Each of the four brings along a different type of colorfulness, and boosts the personal and conceptual diversity of the court.

l The storm of the past few days rose up around the candidacy of Edna Arbel, but one should recall that in recent months, it was Elyakim Rubinstein in fact whose suitability for the position was called into question among legal circles. This was due to his alleged "lenient" policy toward senior state state officials during his time as attorney general.

Rubinstein, 57, holds degrees in law, literature and Arabic from Jerusalem's Hebrew University, and a masters in contemporary Judaism from the same institution. In addition, he holds an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University in New York.

The major part of Rubinstein's career has been in the civil service, in which he has filled not only judicial positions. He worked in the office of the Defense Ministry's legal advisor, as the director of the foreign minister's bureau and as a deputy director-general for special tasks at the Foreign Ministry. He was a member of Israel's delegation to the peace talks with Egypt and the Madrid Conference, and served as the head of Israel's delegation to the peace talks with Jordan.

Following a stint as an attache in Israel's embassy in Washington, he was appointed cabinet secretary in 1986. In 1992, he was named deputy attorney general for advisory affairs; and in 1995, he was appointed as a Jerusalem District Court judge. Some 18 months later, he was named attorney general, overseeing a stormy period during which he came in for intense flak over the closing of numerous criminal investigations into public figures.

Prior to his appointment as attorney general, Rubinstein lectured in various subjects at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Bar-Ilan University.

l Alongside the appointment of Rubinstein, one should take note of another event worthy of mention in the judicial history of the state - the permanent appointment of the first Arab Supreme Court justice. Salim Jubran overcome the temporary-appointment hurdle and from now on, he is an integral part of the judicial landscape there. Abed al-Rahman Zouabi, the last Arab justice to serve on the Supreme Court bench as a temporary appointment, failed to make it over this hurdle.

Jubran, 57, who holds a bachelor's degree in law from Hebrew University, was born in Haifa's German Colony neighborhood to a Christian Arab family with roots among the Maronites in Lebanon. The family subsequently moved to Acre.

Jubran went into private practice as a lawyer in 1970, and continued in this position for 12 years, before moving over to the other side of the bench. At 35, he was appointed a Haifa Magistrate's Court judge; and in 1993, he was promoted to the city's district court, where he served for 10 years before his temporary appointment to the Supreme Court bench.

Jubran's expertise lies in the field of criminal law, and he is known for his tough stand on sex and drug-related crimes.

l Esther Hayut's naming as a Supreme Court justice was the smoothest of all the decisions taken yesterday by the Judicial Appointments Committee due to the consensus surrounding her judicial and personal abilities.

But Hayut's appointment has its irregular side too, both due to the judicial path she took - primarily among Tel Aviv legal circles, with an emphasis on civil law - and due to her young age. At 51, Hayyut is the youngest justice to win a Supreme Court appointment since the naming in 1980 to the bench of Shlomo Levin, at the age of 47.

Hayut is destined to serve on the Supreme Court bench for 19 years, through to 2023; and if till then no changes are made and the seniority system is still used to appoint the Supreme Court president, Hayut is slated to head the court for the last six years of her tenure as a justice.

Hayut earned a bachelor's degree in law from Tel Aviv University, following her military service as a singer in the Central Command's entertainment troupe.

Following her certification, she worked as a lawyer for 12 years - initially as an employee in a firm, and then independently. In 1990, she was appointed to the bench of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court; and in 1997, she was promoted to the city's district court. Her move up to the Supreme Court - she received a temporary appointment for a year in March 2003 - was also made with impressive speed.

Hayut's appointment yesterday is particularly pleasing for Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak, who holds the new permanent justice in very high regard.

l Edna Arbel, 60, is moving onto the Supreme Court bench following an eight-year stint as state prosecutor.

Arbel holds a bachelor's degree in law from Hebrew University, and a masters in law from Bar-Ilan University. Three years after passing the bar exam, she took a position at the State Prosecutor's Office, in the central district, where she appeared in serious criminal cases. At the same time, she served on numerous public legal committees, including the attorney general's panel on the matter of the Bus 300 affair, and the Kahan Commission, which investigated the Sabra and Chatila massacres of 1982.

Arbel was appointed state attorney for the central district; and four years later, she was named to the bench of the Tel Aviv District Court. During this period, she taught courses in evidentiary law and criminal procedure at Tel Aviv University's law faculty.

Arbel was appointed state prosecutor in 1996 and has, since then, made decisions in various affairs relating to numerous public figures, including Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzachi Hanegbi, Aryeh Deri, Ehud Barak, Yaakov Neeman, Ehud Olmert, Ezer Weizman and Ariel Sharon.