Edmond Levy, Supreme Court justice, dies at 72

Edmond Levy, Supreme Court justice, dies at 72

Former judge, an advocate for the legality of the settlement enterprise, praised by Netanyahu for his 'keen intelligence'

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Edmond Levy (center) in court (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon/ Flash 90)
Edmond Levy (center) in court (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon/ Flash 90)

Former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy passed away Tuesday at the age of 72. Levy served in the Israeli judicial system for years and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2000. After 11 years of service there, he retired in 2011.

“I bow my head at the passing of Justice Edmond Levy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement shortly after receiving news of Levy’s death. “He was one of the greatest judges in Israel.”

Netanyahu went on to praise Levy’s character and intelligence, as well as his commitment to the state.

“Levy passed through all stages of the judicial system before serving in the Supreme Court, where he left a deep mark. He was [a man] of keen intelligence and exceptional intellectual independence, and he had a remarkable ability to analyze complex situations. He was straight as an arrow and he dared to repeatedly speak his mind on controversial issues. The people of Israel, the State of Israel and the Land of Israel were of utmost importance to him.”

Edmond Levy (left) giving his committee's report to Benjamin Netanyahu last month. (photo credit: Flash90)
Edmond Levy (left) giving his committee’s report to Benjamin Netanyahu last month. (photo credit: Flash90)

Levy emigrated to Israel from Iraq in the 1950s when he was 10 years old. After his military service, while studying law at a branch of the Hebrew University in Tel Aviv, he began working at the Ramle Magistrates Court.

In 1977 he was appointed a military judge, and in 1979 a magistrate in Kfar Saba. In 1984 he was elected as a district judge in Tel Aviv, specializing in criminal law. He presided over the 1996 trial of Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2001. While in the Supreme Court, Levy often held the minority opinion, such as in the case of his ruling against the legality of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and was considered a legal activist.

Following his retirement, Levy was appointed by Netanyahu to head a panel to analyze the unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank. A report produced by the panel recommended legalizing most of the outposts, raising an outcry from many public figures on the left.

“Justice Levy’s appointment to the Supreme Court was not obvious, especially in a society in which prejudice and social affiliation often influenced the choice of judges in the Supreme Court,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday, alluding to Levy’s Mizrahi provenance.

“During his term, Judge Levy was held in highly regard, and the Supreme Court received a daring, activist judge who was not afraid to speak his professional truth even when it was not easy to digest and when it drew criticism. We lost tonight a jurist of the best and most modest kind. I offer my condolences to his family. May his memory be blessed.”

Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch said she was shocked at Levy’s sudden death, and praised his commitment to human rights causes.

“It is important to emphasize that he was a judge particularly sensitive to human rights and social distress and always saw before him the need to address social issues among disadvantaged groups in society, in addition to being a first-class criminal law scholar.

Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin mourned Levy’s passing and called to implement the judge’s report on the West Bank.

“The Israeli government should adopt without delay the Levy report,” Elkin said. “It is a moral imperative left by judge Levy, a testament to the value of love for the Land of Israel.”

Levy’s funeral is set to take place on Wednesday in Ramle.

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