After delaying the opening of the Knesset until Monday, the body’s incumbent speaker, Yuli Edelstein, has refused to allow for a vote on who will occupy his position in the current legislative session. While his opponents have accused him of trying to prevent his own replacement, or of trying to protect Benjamin Netanyahu from unfavorable legislation, Edelstein claims he is making a principled stand to protect the ongoing coalition negotiations that will determine the next prime minister. The situation has come to a head with the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday that Edelstein must open the Knesset immediately. Raoul Wootliff and Michael Bachner explain:
Yuli Edelstein told the High Court of Justice [yesterday] that his conscience would not permit him to hold a vote on his replacement in accordance with the court’s order, while accusing the justices of meddling in Israel’s parliament, fanning political turmoil, and plunging the country into a constitutional crisis. [Instead], Edelstein resigned from the post, which he has held since 2013.
“I regret that the court has decided what it has decided and chose, in an unprecedented way, to meddle in the Knesset’s work and my judgment, but my conscience will not permit me to comply with the order,” wrote Edelstein in his response to the court, countering contempt-of-court allegations. Edelstein’s resignation will only come into effect in 48 hours; until then, he is still seemingly bound by the court ruling.
Noting the vagueness of Knesset protocols on when a speaker must be appointed—only a final deadline is provided—Edelstein argued that this was to enable coalition negotiations to proceed apace, with a speaker chosen after the parties arrive at an agreement. In ordering the speaker appointed now, charged Edelstein, the court was disrupting the coalition talks.
“The court order may bring about the continued political paralysis in the country, paralysis whose resolution lies in political negotiations to build a unity government [of Likud and Blue and White] and not a court order,” he charged, referring to ongoing negotiations between the two largest parties to resolve the year-long deadlock that saw three consecutive national elections fail to yield a government.
There is no precedent in Israel’s history for holding elections for a new speaker before the government is formed. Nor is there a clear constitutional answer to the question of whether the speaker must follow the court’s orders.
Read more on Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/edelstein-to-high-court-my-conscience-wont-allow-