Yuli Edelstein
Yuli EdelsteinAdi Gefen/ TPS

For the first time in Israeli history, the Knesset Speaker resigned in protest of a Supreme Court ruling obligating a vote in the plenary to elect the 23rd Knesset Speaker.

Slamming the Supreme Court, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said: "The Supreme Court of Justice decided that the Knesset Speaker must hold a vote this week to choose a new Knesset Speaker. The Supreme Court's decision is not based on the how the law is worded, but according to a one-sided and extremist interpretation."

"The Supreme Court's decision contradicts the Knesset protocol. The Supreme Court's decision destroys the Knesset's work. The Supreme Court's decision is gross and audacious interference on the part of the judicial authority in the affairs of the elected legislative authority. The Supreme Court's decision harms, in an unprecedented fashion, the sovereignty of the nation and the sovereignty of the Knesset. The Supreme Court's decision undermines the basis of Israeli democracy."

Edelstein added: "As a democratic person, as a Jewish Zionist, as someone who has fought against evil powers, and as the Speaker of the elected government, I state: The Supreme Court's decision is a wrongful and serious decision, which will lead to a dangerous eclipse."

Turning to the Knesset, Edelstein, who immigrated from the then USSR after being imprisoned as a refusenik (the term for Russian Jews who applied to immigrate to Israel during the days of the Iron Curtain and were refused), said: "Knesset members, as someone who has paid a heavy personal price, of years in prison and slave-like work, for the right to live as a citizen in the State of Israel, there is no need for explanations regarding how much I love the State of Israel and the nation of Israel. And so, as a democratic individual, as a Jewish Zionist, as someone who has fought against evil powers, and as the Speaker of this place, I will not allow Israel to deteriorate to anarchy. I will not play a part in a civil war."

Calling for a unity government, he added: "Knesset members, citizens of Israel, right now our nation needs unity, needs a unity government. In these days, when there is a plague that is endangering us from the outside, and divisions which tear us apart from the inside, we must all act with integrity, we must all strive to be better. We must all unite."

"Therefore, for the sake of the State of Israel, and in order to renew the national spirit in Israel, I hereby resign from my position as Knesset Speaker. We will pray, and we will work, for better days."

On Monday, Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled that Edelstein must convene the Knesset plenum as soon as possible to elect a permanent Knesset Speaker no later than Wednesday this week. The rightist bloc countered that this is not in the purview of the courts but is a matter for the legislature.

The court hinted that if he refused to do so, it would accept the appeal against him.