Yuli Edelstein speaks about his resignation as Knesset speaker

The veteran Speaker of the Knesset again blasted the High Court’s attempt to “take over” the legislature.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Yuli Edelstein defended his resignation earlier this week from the post of Speaker of the Knesset in an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom that will be published in full in the paper’s weekend edition.

Edelstein said that resigning was the only way to uphold the autonomy of the legislature after the High Court ordered him to hold a vote on his replacement, a move he claimed Knesset bylaws does not require until a new government is sworn in.

While President Reuven Rivlin gave Blue and White leader Benny Gantz the mandate to form a coalition on March 15 after 61 MKs – a majority of the Knesset – recommended him, the Netanyahu rival has not been able to form a government.

“It’s true that this is the first time that someone told them ‘no,’ but I did this act as Knesset Speaker, as one who is protecting the status and independence of the Knesset and not as a private individual,” Edelstein said, when asked if his refusal to obey the High Court was an act of anarchy. “What I did doesn’t mean that now every citizen can say ‘no’ to a judicial ruling. This isn’t a traffic violation.”

In fact, claimed Edelstein, who held the position of speaker for seven years, he “acted as the responsible adult” and prevented a “civil war” between the judicial and legislative branches of government by resigning instead of trying to battle the court from his position.

“There is no doubt that my step was unprecedented, but everything that’s happening is unprecedented,” he said. “It’s clear that the High Court took over control of the executive branch a long time ago. Now there’s also an attempt to take over the legislative branch and its procedures. These are things that never happened before.”

“[The High Court] acted disrespectfully to the Knesset and the institution of the Knesset Speaker. They didn’t read the opinion of the lawyers who represented me if 25 minutes after it was submitted they already published a decision that was ready in advance. I think the judges have to ask themselves how it could happen that a person like me, who does not have to be taught what democracy is, who never came out against the High Court and throughout the years respected the court, finds himself pushed to the wall until he has to do such a thing,” he said.

“It’s impossible to force me to do things that in my opinion are dangerous to democracy and are against my conscience,” added Edelstein, who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union for years based on his desire to immigrate to Israel.

“I hope that the High Court will still allow me this right, to resign for reasons of conscience,” he added.