Knesset plunged into ‘constitutional crisis’ over speaker spat

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Knesset plunged into ‘constitutional crisis’ over speaker spat

Angry scenes in Jerusalem follow argument over Speaker Yuli Edelstein's decision to adjourn parliament before he was kicked out of office

Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
Yuli-Yoel Edelstein

Israeli politicians threw the country into a full-blown “constitutional crisis” on Wednesday after Speaker Yuli Edelstein adjourned Parliament before he was kicked out of office, leading to angry scenes in Jerusalem.

Opposition parliamentarians led by Benny Gantz, who now has a slim majority of 61, had earlier been asked by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to form a government. Among the first acts was to vote to replace the Speaker.

Edelstein, who has been Speaker since 2013, is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, and defied Rivlin to order an extraordinary adjournment of parliament before vacating his position.

By doing so, he stopped the opposition from electing either a new Speaker or new committees to reflect that Likud and its allies are no longer the majority.

Gantz said his Blue and White Party was urgently petitioning the Supreme Court, accusing Edelstein of “trampling over democracy”.

Analyst Anshel Pfeffer said Edelstein’s move was “effectively a shutdown of parliamentary oversight of Netanyahu’s unelected interim minority caretaker government at a time of national emergency”.

He added that this was “likely to be Israel’s biggest constitutional crisis ever,” as fellow Israeli journalist Noa Landau tweeted that “Israel’s political situation is now fast deteriorating… As a lockdown scenario approached, Netanyahu’s Likud refuses to allow the newly-elected Knesset to function”.

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