Knesset Speaker clashes with High Court: I won’t hold vote for my own demise

“I can’t agree because that would make the Knesset’s agenda determined by the High Court,” Edelstein said.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein defied Israel’s Supreme Court, which ordered him on Monday evening to hold a vote for his position by 5:00 p.m. Wednesday – a vote he would surely lose.

“I won’t agree to ultimatums,” Edelstein told the court. “I can’t agree because that would make the Knesset’s agenda determined by the High Court and not by the Speaker of the Knesset, who is assigned this role.”

Technically, Edelstein is correct. According to Knesset bylaws, the incumbent speaker isn’t obligated to bring a vote for a new speaker before parliament until just before a government is established.

The bylaws state: “The Speaker shall be elected no later than the date on which the Knesset convened for the purpose of establishing the Government, as stated in Article 13 of Basic Law: The Government.

“Should the elections of the Knesset Speaker be scheduled for the same date set as the session convening for the purpose of establishing the Government, the Speaker shall be elected first.”

However, the opposition Blue and White party is eager to hold a vote to choose a new speaker in order to replace Edelstein with its man, Meir Cohen.

The Knesset Speaker controls the parliamentary schedule, and taking over the position is key to Blue and White’s plan to push through several bills that would bar Benjamin Netanyahu from serving as prime minister.

When Edelstein rebuffed Blue and White’s demand, the party appealed to the Supreme Court. The court’s stinging rebuke of Edelstein on Monday said, “The continued refusal to allow the Knesset to vote on the election of a permanent speaker is undermining the foundations of the democratic process.”

The Likud party and its allies responded swiftly, saying that it was the court’s interference that undermined democracy.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin of the Likud told Israel’s public broadcaster on Tuesday that the High Court “is acting as if it owns the country” and was undermining the separation of powers.

Chief Justice Esther Hayut “has no authority over how the Knesset is managed. The court cannot manage the Knesset and replace the Knesset Speaker. Unfortunately, the one who is leading us to this [anarchy] is the court,” Levin said.

Edelstein agreed with this assessment, saying, “We need to see things as they are. Five judges, who are chosen by the ‘bring a friend’ method, without a protocol, in a way that’s not really appropriate, are sitting there and thinking that they can run everything.

“This is not a country which has a court. It’s unfortunately a country where the court acts as if the entire country belongs to it,” Edelstein said.

Yemina party member and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked said of the court’s demand: “Democracy in Israel is not ‘dead.’ Some people are trying to kill it, and it’s not the Knesset chairman, but those who go to the High Court of Justice as a kind of kindergarten teacher over the Knesset. They’re the ones killing democracy.”

Justice Minister and Likud MK Amir Ohana tweeted on Monday that Edelstein should refuse the Supreme Court’s order. “If I were the Knesset speaker, my answer would be no,” he tweeted.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, speaking from the Knesset podium on Monday, blasted Likud calls to ignore the High Court.

Fellow Blue and White leader Gabi Ashkenazi said, “Calls not to honor the decision of the Supreme Court are unacceptable. They’re embarrassing and serious. We won’t permit anyone to harm democracy and to trample the rule of law.”

There seems to be a difference of opinion within the Likud over whether to obey the court’s decision. Likud ministers Yuval Steinitz and Zeev Elkin along with Knesset member Nir Barkat said in Tuesday morning interviews that the party wouldn’t ignore the court’s decision.