Knesset speaker resigns instead of convening vote on his replacement

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Knesset speaker resigns instead of convening vote on his replacement

Yuli Edelstein steps aside after seven years in the job in wake of his decision to suspend parliament due to virus restrictions

Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
Yuli-Yoel Edelstein

Israel’s parliament speaker has resigned after seven years in the job rather than complying with a Supreme Court order to convene a vote on his replacement.

Yuli Edelstein suspended parliamentary activities last week, citing procedural issues and restrictions on large gatherings due to the spread of the coronavirus, but opponents accused him of blocking a vote after his right-wing bloc failed to win a majority in March 2 elections.

He 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 to hold a vote.

With other senior members of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party urging him to defy the order, he responded that he would “not agree to an ultimatum” and resigned.

“The Supreme Court decision destroys the work of the Knesset. The Supreme Court decision marks a harsh and arrogant intervention of the judicial branch in the affairs of the elected legislative branch,” Mr Edelstein said in his last appearance as speaker.

He said he would step down so Israel would not “descend to anarchy”.

The showdown marked the height of an ever-deepening standoff between Mr Netanyahu’s opponents and supporters after the country’s third inconclusive election in less than a year and against the backdrop of a series of emergency executive measures to quell the spread of the new virus.

Mr Netanyahu’s Likud emerged as the largest party in the election earlier this month, but along with his smaller religious and nationalist allies, only won the support of 58 legislators – leaving his right-wing bloc three seats short of the required majority in parliament.

Opposition leader Benny Gantz’s majority bloc is deeply divided along ideological lines and unlikely to band together to form an alternative government, but they are determined to oppose Mr Netanyahu and seem willing to co-operate in parliament.

They are expected to win a vote to nominate Meir Cohen of the centrist Blue and White party as Mr Edelstein’s replacement.

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