Analysis

Set on Succeeding Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Adopts PM's Destructive Doctrine

With a series of miserable decisions, Yuli Edelstein turned from a respected, statesmanlike political figure into one of the symbols of the constitutional and democratic abyss that Israel is sliding toward at a worrying pace

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in the Knesset, January 12, 2020
Ohad Zwingenberg

Israelis who were stuck in their homes Wednesday watched in the morning – and in the hours afterward – as a de facto criminal made a speech from the seat of the Knesset speaker. That’s the chair that seats the person with the second most important state position, the deputy state president.

The short resignation speech given by the head of the country’s legislature was horrifying: There is no law or judge in Israel. Everyone does as they please.

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With a series of miserable decisions that peaked Wednesday, Yuli Edelstein turned from a respected, statesmanlike political figure into one of the symbols of the constitutional and democratic abyss that Israel is sliding toward at a worrying pace. He may think he’s a greater democrat than the High Court of Justice, but when historians examine the “processes” of which Yair Golan so presciently warned, the time when the Knesset speaker scornfully spat in the face of the judiciary will be remembered as one of the milestones of the apocalypse.

The language the man used demonstrated how clueless he is. “As a democrat, a Jewish Zionist, as someone who has battled dark regimes and as the speaker of the legislature,” he praised himself with a sour face – and began to insult the High Court order that he hold a debate, by Wednesday at the latest, on the election of a new speaker.

With a total lack of self-awareness and uncanny cynicism, he invoked the name of Menachem Begin, and said his resignation was “for Israeli unity” and to prevent a “split.” He forgot the part about refusing to honor an order from the highest court in the land. All that was missing was for him to pull out a match and light a torch for the glory of the State of Israel.

For seven years we’ve been used to seeing the pleasant Edelstein as one of the more proper, “sane” members of Likud. After the September election, when the political stalemate became intractable, Kahol Lavan was prepared to accept him as a replacement for Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of a unity government. A number of months and another election later, he has become practically a Netanyahu clone. Tricky Yuli.

By taking these steps, Edelstein has for all intents and purpose joined the gang of thugs in the ruling party, the people who always disgusted him. The gang whose leader is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His behavior serves Netanyahu’s ultimate purpose: to bring the hatred among his base and beyond for the judicial system to a peak. To deepen its delegitimization among the public.

The usual blasphemers like ministers Amir Ohana, Yariv Levin and Miri Regev haven’t been giving Netanyahu the momentum he needs; Edelstein is. This past week it became clear that Edelstein has given up on the presidency. He is looking to contend for the Likud leadership. But that position is locked up now. Still, the behavior of the candidate dovetails with the destructive doctrine of the man he dreams of replacing.