Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut on Tuesday hit out at lawmakers over recent criticism of the court, saying their remarks often bordered on incitement and were fueling a “violent discourse” among the Israeli public.
While acknowledging that “like every other government authority, we are not beyond criticism,” Hayut bemoaned that such criticism of the court has not been condemned or reined in.
“When comments are heard against us, the judges — comments which are far from decent and on point — we should expect that there will be those who will condemn them in the name of statehood,” Hayut said at an event marking 70 years of Israel’s judicial system at President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“Unfortunately such a condemnation doesn’t come, even though these sayings sometimes border on expressions of real incitement and come, among others, from elected officials,” she said.
Hayut charged that the stinging rhetoric employed by some lawmakers was trickling down to the public and poisoning the country’s political discourse.
“It is therefore not surprising that some of the public views this as a license and permission to use the same disparaging and harsh language. As a result of this, a violent discourse is spreading among us that is obtaining a harmful grip on all levels of our lives,” she said.
Hayut did not cite any specific derogatory statements but alluded to a ruling last week allowing a US student accused of supporting boycotts of Israel to enter the country, after which a minister from the ruling Likud party accused the court of “continuing to act against democracy ”
“It is greatly regrettable that recently we are witness that there are those for whom the operation of the [judicial] system as an independent system, not tied to another authority, is disgusting in their view. Those same people went even further and described it as anti-democratic, anti-Zionist, and even as a judicial dictatorship that needs to be smashed,” Hayut said Tuesday.
“One who makes it his objective to harm the independence of the judicial authority will find himself critically harming the democratic regime in Israel.”
Also speaking at the event was President Reuven Rivlin, who called for ensuring judicial independence.
“Judicial independence is the basis of every judge’s ruling, whether they are conservative or activist in outlook. The principle of judicial independence, or the impartiality of the judge, is a fundamental principle without which there is no law, no justice and no truth,” he said.
With this, Rivlin said “judicial independence does not mean judicial activism,” a doctrine the Supreme Court has long been accused of implementing by many on the Israeli right.
Hayut has previously struck out at what she considers efforts to undermine the court’s independence, including in May when she called a bill that would limit the power of the Supreme Court to strike down Knesset legislation it deems unconstitutional an “unprecedented assault” on the judicial branch.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.