Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced on Wednesday he is quitting his position, delivered a speech slamming Israel’s Supreme Court and then ended the Knesset session after noting that his resignation will only go into effect in 48 hours, a move that prevented the opposition from its plan of voting in a new Knesset speaker.
Edelstein’s resignation comes amidst soaring tensions between the Likud and the opposition – Blue & White and its partners – which have a Knesset majority of 61. Although the diverse parties, including Blue & White, Yisrael Beiteinu, the Joint Arab List, Labor-Meretz, and Gesher are unlikely to be able to form a coalition, they want to elect a new Knesset speaker in order to gain control of the Knesset agenda.
However, Edelstein suspended Knesset sessions last week, citing procedural issues and restrictions on large gatherings due to the spread of the coronavirus. But Blue and White and its partners – who want to replace Edelstein with Blue and White MK Meir Cohen, insisted that he hold a vote in the Knesset to potentially replace him. When Edelstein refused, the opposition parties appealed to the Supreme Court.
Edelstein dismissed a Supreme Court call to explain his delay in convening the Knesset and that sparked an unprecedented judicial rebuttal, with the Supreme Court chief justice ordering him on Monday night to hold a vote by Wednesday. With other top members of the Likud party urging him to defy the order, he responded that he would “not agree to an ultimatum” and resigned instead.
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“The Supreme Court’s decision is not based on law but on a one-sided extreme interpretation which contradicts the bylaws of the Knesset,” Edelstein said.
“The Supreme Court decision destroys the work of the Knesset. It constitutes a harsh and arrogant intervention of the judiciary in the affairs of the elected legislature.”
“As someone who has paid a personal price of years in a labor camp for the right to live in the State of Israel, as a Zionist and as the speaker of this house, I won’t allow Israel to descend into anarchy, I won’t lend a hand to civil war,” said Edelstein, who spent three years in a Soviet prison camp.
“Therefore, for the benefit of the State of Israel… I am hereby resigning from my role as Knesset speaker,” he said. “Let us pray and hope for better days.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)