Nearly 1,000 Protesters in Jerusalem Demand Election of Knesset Speaker Today

Protest leaders say police banned them from demonstrating outside the Knesset after Edelstein’s resignation

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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A demonstration at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 24, 2020
A demonstration at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 24, 2020Credit: Emil Salaman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A convoy of hundreds of cars and some 1,000 protestors reached the Knesset in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The protestors are demanding that the Knesset elect a new speaker today to replace of Yuli Edelstein, who resigned from his post earlier in the day.

Edelstein resigned rather than comply with a High Court ruling, ordering him to convene the Knesset and allow the Gantz-led majority bloc to elect a new speaker by Wednesday. Edelstein's resignation will take 48 hours to go into effect, delaying the Knesset vote.

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The protestors said that during the demonstration, Major General Doron Yadid, the commander of the Jerusalem Police District, told them he would not allow them to continue demonstrating across from the Knesset. They added that that those who tried to reach the demonstration were told the area was “closed off.”

“Last week, protestors were told not to enter the capital with black flags, and now the Jerusalem police have decided to do everything possible to help the criminal defendant [Netanyahu] repress civil protest,” said the organizers of the demonstration.The police said that they have closed off to traffic several streets near the Knesset due to the protest.

The protesters circled the Knesset compound and demanded that the leaders of Kahol Lavan act to convene the full Knesset to hold a vote for the election for speaker. Among those participating in the demonstration were Meretz lawmakers Nitzan Horowitz and former MK Omer Bar-Lev.

Haim Shadmi, one of the organizers, said: “We are not waiting for lords Netanyahu and Edelstein, because if we continue to wait, we will find ourselves in a dictatorship. No police force in the world can stop us. If it is necessary, the Knesset will be ours.”

“The refusal of the leaders of Likud, headed by the defendant Netanyahu, to honor the High Court of Justice decision highlights the depth of the pit Israeli democracy is in,” said the organizers of the “Black Flag” protests. This is not just the test of Israel’s leaders, but also of the willingness of Israelis to fight for democracy in a time of crisis, they added.

This protest comes after a convoy of hundreds of vehicles and some 2,000 protesters on Monday traveled to Jerusalem on Route 1, the main highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, to protest the steps taken to weaken the Knesset during the coronavirus crisis. Some 20 protesters stood on the shoulder of the road with Israeli flags and signs reading “this is the end of democracy if we don’t wake up.”

Edelstein resigned on Wednesday after the High court ruled on Monday that he must convene the Knesset by Wednesday to vote on choosing a speaker. The Knesset rules state that a resignation takes effect 48 hours after an official letter of resignation is submitted. The Knesset legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, informed the High Court that Edelstein actively refused to convene the Knesset on Wednesday to choose a new speaker. Yinon asked for a ruling from the High Court on the matter, and clarification on whether the Knesset can still be convened for the vote on Wednesday.

Edelstein charged that "The High Court's decision undercuts the foundations of democracy," in his resignation speech. The Knesset legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, notified the High Court that the Knesset speaker refused to uphold the court's ruling and hold the vote on Wednesday.

Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan is looking into ways to circumvent the protocols and appoint an acting Knesset speaker.

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