Knesset Speaker Brings Israel to Brink of Constitutional Crisis

Nellie Chapman
March 26, 2020

Earlier, Adelstein rejected the request of the Israeli opposition to schedule a parliamentary session to elect a new speaker of the Knesset.

Anti-Netanyahu forces, who held a narrow majority in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, forced the ouster this week of ex-speaker Yuli Edelstein, a Netanyahu ally.

"To exhaust the possibility of forming a national emergency government, I made a decision to put my candidacy forward for the position of speaker of the Knesset", Gantz explained after the vote.

However, while the 62 Knesset members, including the 15 members of the Joint Arab List, who oppose Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's continued premiership are now unable to form a coalition, they would have voted against Edelstein, a strong Netanyahu ally, in the vote for a new speaker.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-elected recently, holds 58 seats in Parliament but requires 61 to form a government.

The resignation comes after a year of political turmoil that has seen three inconclusive elections, and after Netanyahu imposed strict legal and security measures to deal with the pandemic.

The political crisis in Israel has persisted even as the country tackles the outbreak of the global coronavirus.

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After he refused to comply - with the encouragement of Netanyahu allies including the justice minister - the court issued a binding order for a vote by Wednesday.

"The Speaker's actions over the past few days and his refusal to act in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling are bringing us dangerously close to anarchy", Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israeli Democracy Institute research center, said in a statement.

Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, is also fighting indictment on a series of corruption charges.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit argued at noon time that Edelstein's resignation "does not absolve him from carrying out the court's ruling", which he must do in full.

Gantz was tasked with forming a government following the 2 March vote, but there was no guarantee he would succeed, given the deep divisions within the anti-Netanyahu bloc.

"That is why I intend to explore the formation of an emergency unity government", he added.

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