Israeli speaker resigns under pressure from High Court

The speaker of Israel’s Knesset resigned from the post Wednesday under pressure from the nation’s top court to to get back to work and schedule a vote to find his replacement.

Yuli Edelstein, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, stepped down as the parliamentary body’s chairman after criticizing the Israeli High Court of Justice for “burying the Knesset.”

“The High Court’s decision is not based on the law, but on a partisan and extreme interpretation,” he said at the start of special plenary session. “The High Court decision contradicts the Knesset’s bylaws.”

Edelstein suspended Knesset activities last week out of concern for the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, lawmakers have not been able to convene and stage votes to assemble the new parliamentary leadership following national elections early this month.

The Blue and White Party, led by Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, gained a slim majority in the elections, meaning Edelstein would have likely lost the speaker post to Gantz loyalist Meir Cohen.

The Blue and White bloc is hoping to pass legislation preventing Netanyahu, who faces a corruption trial, from becoming prime minister again. The proposal would bar any Knesset member under indictment from forming a government.

The High Court on Monday ruled unanimously that Edelstein had to hold a vote by Wednesday to elect a successor, accusing him of trying to undermine democracy by refusing to do so. Rather than allowing the vote, Edelstein resigned and adjourned the Knesset until Monday over vehement objections from Blue and White Party lawmakers.

“The High Court decision constitutes a gross and arrogant intervention of the judiciary in the affairs of the elected legislature,” Edelstein said. “The High Court decision infringes on the sovereignty of the Knesset.”

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