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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein resigns

For the first time in Israeli history, the Knesset Speaker resigned in protest of a Supreme Court ruling obligating a vote in the plenary to elect the 23rd Knesset Speaker.

Slamming the Supreme Court, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said: “The Supreme Court of Justice decided that the Knesset Speaker must hold a vote this week to choose a new Knesset Speaker. The Supreme Court’s decision is not based on the how the law is worded, but according to a one-sided and extremist interpretation.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision contradicts the Knesset protocol. The Supreme Court’s decision destroys the Knesset’s work. The Supreme Court’s decision is gross and audacious interference on the part of the judicial authority in the affairs of the elected legislative authority. The Supreme Court’s decision harms, in an unprecedented fashion, the sovereignty of the nation and the sovereignty of the Knesset. The Supreme Court’s decision undermines the basis of Israeli democracy.”

Edelstein 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 as Edelstein’s replacement, but it is unclear when that vote will be able to happen.

On Monday, Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled that Edelstein, must convene the Knesset plenum as soon as possible to elect a permanent Knesset Speaker no later than Wednesday this week.

The court hinted that if he refused to do so, it would accept the appeal against him.

The Knesset speaker tried to embrace Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon to show he had legal support even if Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had vehemently attacked Edelstein’s position of delaying a vote to replace him as dangerous to democracy. Yinon, for his own part, has expressed disagreement with Edelstein’s decision to delay the vote, but has provided enough ambiguity in his position to suggest the idea that giving Edelstein a short extension to try to get the political parties involved to reach a compromise is legally defensible.

Yinon is expected to rule later Wednesday on whether there must be a vote to replace Edelstein on Wednesday. Cohen served as deputy Knesset speaker in the last functional Knesset until the April 2019 election.