In a speech announcing his resignation, Edelstein condemned the court’s decision saying it “destroys the work of the Knesset” and therefore “undercuts the foundations of democracy”.
“The High Court decision constitutes a gross and arrogant intervention of the judiciary in the affairs of the elected legislature. The High Court decision infringes on the sovereignty of the Knesset.”
He said he would step down so as not to allow Israel to “descend to anarchy” and devolve into civil war.
Edelstein’s resignation follows his decision last week to not allow the Knesset plenum to convene on a vote to elect a new speaker. Israel’s top court unanimously ruled that Edelstein must hold a vote by Wednesday to elect a successor. Justices accused Edelstein of “undermining democracy” by refusing to do so.
The Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, has told Edelstein that his resignation does not absolve him of the need to call the plenum vote today, adding that if he doesn’t do so he would be in contempt of the court ruling.
Edelstein’s resignation will only enter into effect in 48 hours, meaning that he is still bound by the court ruling.
Edelstein’s bombshell decision to stand down comes as it is very likely he will lose his job if the vote goes ahead today. An alliance of 61 MKs led by Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, is set to back Gantz loyalist Meir Cohen for the position of speaker. This would mean Blue and White would then gain control of the parliamentary agenda.
Benny Gantz turned to Twitter to stress that: “the Knesset belongs to Israel’s citizens and its publicly elected officials will adhere to the laws of the State of Israel and court rulings. Nobody is above the law”.