Justice Esther Hayut was unanimously elected by the Judicial Selection Committee as the next president of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Hayut replaces outgoing president Miriam Naor. She will take up her new position in October and serve a six year term.
Hayut will be the third woman to serve as president of Israel’s Supreme Court, following Naor and Dorit Benesch, who was president from 2006 to 2012.
In the months leading up to the decision, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) had attempted to alter the selection procedure but ultimately failed, due to a combination of opposition within the appointments committee and from other Supreme Court justices. This resulted in the conventional procedure remaining in place with the Presidency going to the longest serving judge on the Supreme Court.
The current nine member selection panel is composed of four politicians including Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and MK Nurit Koren (Likud), who did not attend the voting in protest to the selection procedure. The Committee also includes three Supreme Court judges and two representative of the Bar Association.
Hayut was born in a refugee camp in 1953 near Herzilya. Her parents, Romanian Holocaust survivors, divorced when she was a baby and she spent her IDF service performing in the Central Command’s musical band. After her service she qualified as a lawyer and became a judge in 1990 at the age of 37. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2003.
The Israeli judicial system inherited the principle of judicial review from the British Mandate. Under previous presidents the Supreme Court has varied in its level of judicial activism, but has increasingly struck down Knesset legislation it deemed unconstitutional. Justice Minister Shaked enjoyed a particularly fraught relationship over such issues with the outgoing Supreme Court president Naor.
Hayut is expected to follow the approach of her predecessor, and it has been suggested that she may be more willing to confront both the Government and the Knesset. Hayut has scrupulously avoided being labelled as left or right wing, and has a reputation for hard work, a command of the details of individual hearings and fast and comprehensive rulings. Her approach has been described as “controlled activism.”