Yuli Edelstein
Yuli EdelsteinFlash 90

Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein must convene the Knesset plenum as soon as possible to elect a permanent Knesset Speaker no later than Wednesday this week.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut wrote, "The refusal by the Knesset Speaker seeks to undermine the democratic process, and clearly undermines the status of the Knesset as an independent authority. In the circumstances created, the Court shall intervene to prevent the government's system from being violated."

Judge Chanan Meltzer added, "I have nothing but the hope that the lessons will be learned and that in future we will no longer be needed for such petitions."

Degel Hatorah Chairman MK Moshe Gafni said in response that "Supreme Court judges have systematically eliminated the democratic regime in recent years, and the principle of separation of powers, which is one of the cornerstones of a regime in determining when the legislature will hold a meeting and what will be on the agenda. Whoever thinks the democratic regime is important should make every effort to stop their arrogance.

"This is the watershed that from now on behavior towards them will be different than it's been until today. The Supreme Court justices must remember that they are going with some of the people, but more than half of the nation is against them, and ultimately who will rule," Gafni said.

Shortly before the decision, Edelstein made his reply to the Supreme Court in which he made it clear that he would not approve of an ultimatum on the part of the Court. "With all due respect, to the extent that the Honorable Court sets an ultimatum before me and before the Knesset to require me to hold the hearing 'no later than March 25, 2020,' I can't agree. It would mean that the Knesset's agenda will be determined by the Supreme Court and not by the Knesset Speaker who has been assigned this role. Not for nothing did the legislature establish that a permanent Knesset Speaker must be appointed by the establishment of a government and did not determine that it should be done with establishment of the Knesset.

"The transition period to the establishment of a government is important and significant: It provides sufficient opportunity and time for the coalition and political negotiations to mature into a coalition and to establish a government, as opposed to determining early facts in the field. The time interval given for this purpose is intended to achieve broad consensus on the identity of the elected Knesset Speaker, due to the statesmanly nature of the post."

He also notes that the Supreme Court's decision will be political, whatever the case. "The Supreme Court's intervention in this case - whether it's in favor or not - will have a distinctly dominant political character. If the Court decides to intervene in this case, it may be perceived as having its foot deep in the political swamp, something that would seriously damage its status and public confidence in it. And that was already warned of by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Moshe Landau, who wrote that 'the sad result is that the Court seemed to abandon its proper place over disputes that divide the public, and its judges themselves descend into the fray.' In my opinion, such intervention would be an exception to the law that allows the Knesset Speaker to be elected by the date of establishing the government, and does not require selecting the Speaker earlier, would exceed the provisions of the rules under which the Knesset agenda is decided by the Speaker, and primarily would constitute a serious blow to the independence of the Knesset, its status and dignity.

"Therefore, I believe that the court's intervention in the Speaker's discretion to determine the plenary's agenda and vote on the subject of his election is a precedent-setting intervention in his political agenda and in his discretion and is incorrect in these days. Due to the special circumstances, at this stage I find it difficult to name an exact date, but I intend to raise the issue on the Knesset's agenda as the political situation becomes clear. Hopefully this will happen in the shortest time," Edelstein concludes.

Blue and White are already interested in bringing the appointment of MK Meir Cohen from Yesh Atid as Knesset Speaker this week and may even promote laws that would prevent Netanyahu from forming a government.