Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked expressed confidence on Tuesday that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would honor the Supreme Court's request to allow a vote to replace him by Wednesday's deadline.
Five justices told Edelstein (Likud) late Monday night that he must hold a vote for the Blue and White party to potentially replace him no later than Wednesday. Edelstein responded that if it intervened to essentially force him out of office, it would permanently damage the court and the judicial establishment as politicized in the eyes of much of the Israeli public.The decision came after Edelstein refused to convene the Knesset following last Monday's swearing-in of the new parliament.
Shaked (Yamina) said Edelstein was right to complain about the court's behavior and to try to postpone the vote to enable coalition talks to proceed.
"A week in the Knesset is very little time," she told Army Radio. "Stalling is legitimate in the political game. The Supreme Court did not have to intervene."
In the same interview, MK Nir Barakat, said that although, "the High Court's decision must be respected, it was a mistake that the High Court ever addressed the issue." MK Gideon Sa'ar told Kan News, "The high court cannot come in place of the knesset. Unfortunately the court is leading us to anarchy."Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah, who will head a special Knesset committee on the coronavirus, said he was sure Edelstein would permit the vote to elect a new Knesset speaker on Wednesday. He said his Blue and White colleague, Meir Cohen, was a worthy replacement.
"I don't want to even entertain the thought that the Knesset speaker will not respect the decision of the High Court," Shelah told Army Radio.
Earlier Monday, the High Court had tried to pressure Edelstein into committing to allowing the vote by Wednesday, giving him only until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to declare his intentions.Edelstein obtained an extension until 9:00 p.m. to make his position known.Edelstein listed off the weeks that often passed between the swearing in of a new Knesset and the vote on a new speaker as opposed to effectively a one-week deadline that Blue and White, and potentially the court were suggesting.The Knesset speaker tried to embrace Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon to show he had legal support even if Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has 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 some short extension to try to get the political parties involved to reach a compromise is legally defendable.
The justices said they decided to issue a ruling after Edelstein refused to commit to any other set date and said he would delay the vote based on the ongoing political negotiations to form a government.
The High Court did not say what actions it would take if Edelstein attempted to ignore the ruling.
The High Court decision was issued at 10:06 p.m., less than an hour after Edelstein's 9:13 p.m. response to the High Court regarding the issue.
Blue and White responded that Edelstein would be remembered as Netanyahu's partner in destroying democracy.The Likud responded that the Kneset speaker always comes from the party of the prime minister. The Likud said mockingly that if it wants to replace Edelstein, he should form a government and appoint Joint List MK Heba Yazbak.
On Tuesday afternoon, Edelstein's Likud colleagues, Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Edelstein should reject the court's request to allow a vote by Wednesday. Levin issued a sharp attack on the court, accusing chief justice Esther Hayut of a coup in the Knesset and inviting her to convene the plenum."The High Court has officially taken control over the Knesset and made the Knesset speaker into a rubber stamp," Levin said. "The Knesset is now run by the judges. This does not happen in any other democracy." Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich accused the court of "trampling an elected democratic institution and trying to bury the Knesset's agenda." His Yamina colleague, former justice minister Ayelet Shaked said "those who asked the Supreme Court to be the nursery school teacher of the Knesset are killing our democracy."Blue and White responded that the ministers should respect the decisions of both the court and the voters."Democracy is democracy, and not only when it is comfortable for Netanyahu," Blue and White said.Blue and White leader Benny Gantz called on Netanyahu to condemn the Likud ministers who spoke against respecting the Supreme Court. He vowed to hold a vote soon on replacing Edelstein."The cynical attempt to condition coalition talks on harming our democracy won't work," Gantz said. Blue and White officials said the statements of the Likud ministers made it harder to cooperate on a unity government.Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that Edelstein should respect the high court's decision.At a hearing late Sunday, the High Court appeared to side with the Blue and White party's petition to force Edelstein to make the new Knesset start functioning.All five justices, President Esther Hayut, Vice President Hanan Melcer, Uzi Vogelman, Neal Hendel and Yitzhak Amit expressed vehement discomfort with the idea that he was rejecting the will of a 61 MK majority, with Hendel asking if there was any precedent for this.Both Blue and White and the Movement for the Quality of Government’s, who filed the petitions to the High Court, asked the court to compel Edelstein to enable voting to form Knesset committees and to choose a new speaker.Edelstein on Sunday had expressed confidence that the courts would not intervene with the work of the Knesset. He said he intended to form the committees on Monday and only delayed it until then, because he was giving a chance to coalition talks. Edelstein said electing a new speaker would prevent a unity government's formation and Likud and its satellite parties warned that coaliton talks would stop if Edelstein was ousted.However, justice after justice endorsed the view of the petitioners at the Sunday hearing, which squared with the view of Mandelblit’s office, that Edelstein had exceeded his powers and an ironclad rule that a majority is decisive. A lawyer representing Mandelblit said that Edelstein’s move to delay the vote to oust him was a danger to democracy.It was unclear if the High Court would rule later Monday night, Tuesday or shortly after.