Israel’s High Court Rules Against Attempt to Undercut Parliament

(Bloomberg) --

Israel’s High Court dealt a setback to Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to stall action in parliament that could weaken his grip on power.

The court instructed the speaker of parliament, a Netanyahu ally, to let the legislature vote on a new speaker by Wednesday. Such a vote could position Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, to take control of a key committee and clip the prime minister’s wings.

The speaker, Yuli Edelstein, had tried to block the vote to give Netanyahu more time to try to extend his rule. Netanyahu, citing the need for unified front against the coronavirus, is trying to reach a power-sharing agreement with Gantz that would allow the premier to govern while he faces trial on multiple corruption charges.

Gantz, who’s been assigned the uphill battle of forming the next government after a third inconclusive election on March 2, brought Edelstein’s conduct to the High Court, along with other petitioners. They argued that Edelstein’s actions were tantamount to shuttering the Knesset, where a majority favors replacing the current speaker.

The stated purpose of replacing Edelstein would be to stop him from stonewalling on the formation of an influential parliamentary panel that would allow the legislature to get up and running and oversee government decisions on the coronavirus. So far these decisions have been made without consulting the Knesset, which has been barely functioning because of the political gridlock.

“We’ve come here today so that the Supreme Court can officially recognize what is evident to every citizen, namely: that an operational Knesset is not simply vital to democracy, it is vital to Israel’s ability to contend with the coronavirus crisis as well,” said Blue and White lawmaker Ofer Shelach.

It is the fallout from the virus that is making Gantz reconsider his oft-stated opposition to forming a government with Netanyahu while he’s under indictment, and efforts are underway to try to reach a power-sharing agreement.

Netanyahu allies, who have long resented the court’s power, urged Edelstein to ignore the court. Justice Minister Amir Ohana tweeted, “If I were the Knesset speaker, I would say no.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.