Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein rejected the High Court of Justice’s demand that he hold a vote for his successor on Wednesday and instead resigned and closed the Knesset until Monday.
In one of the most dramatic High Court of Justice decisions in Israel’s history, five justices told Likud member Edelstein late Monday night that he must hold a vote for the Blue and White Party to potentially replace him no later than Wednesday. The justices said they decided to issue a ruling after he refused to commit to any other date and said he would delay the vote based on the ongoing political negotiations to form a government.
Edelstein told the court that its ruling could lead to an unprecedented constitutional crisis, violated the concept of separation of powers, interfered with coalition talks and would “prolong the country’s political paralysis.” He said his conscience would not allow him to carry out the court order, so he decided to quit instead.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is not based on law but on one-sided, extreme analysis,” Edelstein told the plenum. “The court’s decision contradicts the bylaws of the Knesset. The court decision destroys the work of the Knesset. The court’s decision is gross interference by the judicial branch in the elected legislative branch. The court decision harms the sovereignty of the nation and the Knesset in an unprecedented manner. The court decision undermines the base of Israeli democracy.”
Edelstein, who became the first Knesset speaker ever to quit, then closed Wednesday’s session of the Knesset plenum and said it would only reconvene on Monday. The 61 MKs in Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s bloc had intended to initiate a vote to elect Blue and White MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) as Edelstein’s replacement, but it is unclear when that vote will be able to take place. Cohen served as deputy Knesset speaker in the last functional Knesset until the April 2019 election.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel announced that it was going immediately to the Supreme Court to complain that Edelstein did not allow a vote to replace him until Monday and thereby violated the court’s decision. MQG head Eliad Shraga called it “a stinking maneuver and a black day for democracy.”
After Edestein resigned he met with Gantz, who asked him to reopen the plenum. Both Blue and White and Labor-Meretz joined the Movement for Quality Government case against Yuli Edelstein, accusing him of contempt of court and violating a court order.
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said in the Knesset’s official response to the Supreme Court that he told Edelstein he had to reconvene the Knesset on Wednesday to abide by the court’s decision, because his resignation does not take effect until Friday. Edelstein responded that he would not abide by the decision.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit endorsed Yinon’s ruling.
Yinon also ruled that when Edelstein’s resignation takes effect, the most veteran MK, Labor-Meretz head Amir Peretz, would automatically become Knesset speaker.
Gantz will then have to decide whether to let Peretz continue to hold the job until a government is formed or initiate a vote to approve Cohen. Gantz blasted Edelstein’s behavior.
“The parliament of Israel belongs to the citizens of Israel, and their elected representatives will fulfill the laws of Israel and the decisions of its courts, and no one is above the law,” Gantz said.
Blue and White’s number two, MK Yair Lapid, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “sending Yuli to burn down our democracy.” He said MKs on the Right should be condemning Edelstein. Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon added that if Netanyahu was a private citizen, he would have been arrested by now for “inciting a rebellion.”
Article courtesy of The Jerusalem Post