Israel parliament speaker resigns rather than convene a vote

  • Israel parliament speaker resigns rather than convene a vote

Israel parliament speaker resigns rather than convene a vote

Edelstein said in his resignation letter that the Supreme Court's ruling that demanded he permit a vote on a new speaker "is not based on the letter of the law but on a one-sided and extreme interpretation".

"As one who paid a personal price of years in prison [in Russia] for the right to live as a citizen in Israel, as a Zionist and as the speaker of this House I will not let Israel come to anarchy".

With Netanyahu's opponents, led by Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party, holding a slim majority in parliament after the national election, Edelstein was likely to have lost his post if a vote in the legislature had gone ahead.

Mr Netanyahu, who faces corruption charges, remains caretaker prime minister and will have his own chance to form a government if Mr Gantz fails to assemble a majority. "I won't lend a hand to civil war", he said as the court's deadline approached.

The resignation of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein clears the way for the opposition to move forward with efforts in parliament to topple Netanyahu.

His departure, however, would take effect only in 48 hours. But by resigning, Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, also defied a Supreme Court order to hold a vote for his successor, throwing down a new obstacle that could delay the opposition from proceeding with its agenda for several days. But in his last act he also said parliament would only reconvene next week, in apparent subversion of the Supreme Court order to hold the vote by Wednesday.

Anti-Netanyahu forces claimed 62 seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 2 election, with the premier's right-wing party and its religious allies claiming 58.

It's been a little over three weeks since the most recent Israeli elections, and despite the looming coronavirus crisis, there has been little progress in the forming of Israel's government.

That proved impossible following two previous elections a year ago, given the deep divisions within the anti-Netanyahu bloc which includes the mainly Arab Joint List and its bitter rival, the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for the establishment of a unity government immediately, Gantz wrote: "Netanyahu, the gaps between us are substantial".

Edelstein's resignation marked the first time in Israeli history that a Knesset speaker had stepped down. He can either try to forge his unwieldy opposition coalition into a governing party or else agree to some form of unity government with Mr Netanyahu.

"There's deep unrest among all parts of the nation, we must put it aside", he said in a televised address late Wednesday focusing on anti-coronavirus measures.

"We all need to act like human beings, to act, to unify, to rise above", he said.