How did the High Court replace Edelstein? 2 Knesset Speakers! - Analysis

Yuli Edelstein's decision to resign on Wednesday created an unprecedentedly awkward position.

Yuli Edelstein (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yuli Edelstein
Yuli Edelstein's decision to resign on Wednesday created an unprecedented awkward position.
On the one hand, under standard Knesset rules, his resignation meant that the High Court's order to allow a vote to replace him by the end of Wednesday would be delayed until Monday. This is because standard rules delay replacing a speaker for a 48-hour cooling off period during which the speaker can change his mind, and the Knesset was not set to meet again until Monday.
On the other hand, by resigning his position, he could no longer be held in contempt of court and was not actively blocking the High Court's will as much as he was using passive Knesset procedure to delay it by a few days.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit was so thrown off by the situation that he presumed, it turned out incorrectly, that the High Court's only way to resolve the situation was to try to order Edelstein to still hold the vote even though he had resigned. The idea would have been that since he still had the Knesset Speaker powers during those 48 hours, he still needed to carry out the court's will.
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon came up with a more creative and super out-of-the-box idea which the High Court jumped on.
Yinon suggested a "surgical" carve out of Edelstein's authority as speaker.
The surgery meant that the High Court could order the next in line after Edelstein – the Knesset's most senior member, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz – to schedule the vote on Thursday, with the Knesset Arrangements Committee, now controlled by the Blue and White Party, giving a green light in parallel.
At the same time, Edelstein would not be "removed" from office before his 48-hour cooling off period ran out. This would avoid any additional insult to his authority (above ensuring he was being removed) and to the Knesset's internal workings.
The third possibility would have been for the High Court to completely removed Edelstein from office before the 48-hour cooling off period ended, based on the idea that the period is the judicial procedure equivalent of setting arbitrary speed limits, something easily trumped by the priority of ensuring the High Court's order to carry out the vote – a question of meta-constitutional importance.
The court opted for the surgical procedure. This means that from 12:22 a.m. Thursday morning when the High Court issued its ruling, there are effectively two Knesset speakers – Edelstein with most of the authority on his way out, but also Peretz with authority to hold the vote to replace him.
The dizzying spectacle of a hearing which only started at 8 p.m. (normally the High Court is done by 5 or 6 p.m.) left normally brilliant justices and top government lawyers having to engage in multiple and confusing back-and-forth rounds of clarifying what they were talking about – and whether anyone knew what they were allowed to do.
Once they all agreed that there was no law that applied to this extraordinary situation, the High Court basically just wanted Yinon to tell them how to get a new speaker into office as fast as possible, and with as little additional damage and insult to Edelstein as possible.
Of course no one thought about what the media will need to write to refer to Edelstein and Peretz in terms of titles – from Thursday morning until new expected speaker Meir Cohen is sworn in later in the day – but only so many ends can be cleanly tied close to one in the morning.