Edelstein and the Supreme Court
“Democracy or anarchy?” was a front-page headline in yesterday’s The Marker, the business section of Ha’aretz. The issue was the conflict between the Speaker of the Knesset (former prisoner of Zion in his native Soviet Union Yuli Edelstein) and Israel’s Supreme Court. The court decreed that he isn’t allowed to delay a plenary session of the new Knesset, as is the law, to elect a Speaker.
Edelstein is a member of Likud and was elected as Speaker by a right-wing majority. But things have changed. His side now commands only 59 of the 120 Knesset seats. The Opposition has thus 61 members and, therefore, is entitled to have its own person in the Speaker’s chair. For reasons we can only speculate about, Edelstein resigned and thereby, following standard procedure, would delay the election. The Supreme Court overruled the delay and his successor will be elected today.
In the eyes of the Opposition, democracy has won; the anarchy implied in Edelstein’s maneuver was averted. The right-wing, still holding on to power in the transition government, argues that the actions of the Supreme Court have served anarchy and thwarted the sovereignty of the democratically elected Knesset.
It’s a struggle for power. I’ve read speculations that the prime minister is behind Edelstein’s action. About to face a trial, Netanyahu believes that the judiciary is against him and Is, therefore, doing his utmost to get the better of it. Rumor has it that Edelstein has been promised the presidency when the current incumbent Reuven Rivlin – who, incidentally, has come out strongly against Edelstein – retires.
Among the many public figures – including Likud Members of Knesset – is Toronto born Avraham Avi-hai (Syd Applebaum). He writes: “Edelstein is behaving in a Fascist manner. He puts himself (and maybe his ambition) above the Supreme Court. Abolishing the independence of the court is a feature of the very Communist regime that imprisoned him. —Neither his religiosity nor his Revisionist forerunners can tolerate such behavior.”
In a similar vein, the heading of the Ha’aretz column about Edelstein’s behavior by Dr. Dmitry Shumsky, who teaches contemporary history at the Hebrew University, is: “The chairman of the Supreme Soviet.”
All this would have been bad enough for Israel. But, like the rest of the world, the country is also battling the corona pandemic with unknown consequences in terms of fatalities and economic fallout; the experts tell us that we haven’t peaked yet.
As is so often the case, in addition to all the burdens that we share with the world, we Jews have an extra dose, this time administered by our politicians. I always thought that the Biblical Prophets were too harsh on the people. Perhaps they were right.
Jerusalem 26.3.20 Dow Marmur