NOTE: Middle East Eye published my latest piece on the Likud’s soft coup preventing the Opposition Blue and White taking control of government after its election victory. I’m grateful if you’d give this piece visibility by reading and promoting it on Facebook and Twitter.
Israel’s de facto governing Blue and White coalition has been prevented from taking control of the government by a rearguard defensive action by the departing Likud. Knesset Speaker, Yuli Edelstein initially refused to permit a key committee to meet in order to establish the legislative order of business. Then he adjourned Knesset so it could not vote on replacing him with its own chosen Speaker and appointing a new prime minister. Finally, when the Knesset Intelligence committee refused to give the Shabak power to use geolocation and private citizens’ data to track and quarantine Covid-19 victims and those in social contact with them, outgoing PM Netanyahu bypassed the legislative body entirely and approved the draconian project using executive authority.
Today, the Knesset convened and named the members of new committees. As the Likud knew it would be on the short end of the stick, it boycotted the votes. It’s motto appears to be: if it can’t be us running the show, it won’t be anybody.
Now the centrist bloc which will take power has to fight the Likud tooth and nail to wrest control of the legislative and ministerial process. The Court, though appointed by Likud and filled with conservative justices, has so far recognized the troubling precedent of usurping political precedent. It has ruled against Likud twice. First, it ruled that the Knesset must meet to review and approve the Shabak’s exposure of the citizen database. If it does not, the Court ruled the operation may not go forward.
Second, and most important (so far), the Court asked Edelstein whether he planned to reconvene the Knesset in order to vote on who would be the next Speaker. When he answered emphatically, NO, the Court directed him to convene the plenum this Wednesday. In its ruling, the Court rebuked him for “undermining democracy.” At that time, the body would vote on a replacement and presumably name Gantz as PM.
It’s unclear whether Edelstein would comply. He has argued that the Court, though it is the highest judicial body in the land, has no right to interfere in the affairs of the legislative branch. This is a classic, fundamental clash of power. The problem is that the judiciary has always been the weaker branch in the Israeli governmental system. There is no accepted consensus on the issue of judicial review of executive and legislative actions. At times, they have obeyed judicial rulings and at other times ignored them. Will Edelstein bow to the Court? Or will he and his Likud colleagues defy it, setting up an even more divisive clash?
Though it’s unclear what Edelstein will do, there is a slowly growing popular movement demanding the new Knesset be seated and a new government be sworn in. It is possible that the Likud will finally relinquish its hold on power. Though the impetus to resist will be intense since a new government will almost surely pass one or more laws which will render Netanyahu ineligible for returning to the premiership.