Push to Cancel Israel's September Election Failed, Knesset Speaker Admits

Edelstein blames lack of political cooperation for initiative's failure, even though legal counsel said disbanding parliament is 'point of no return'

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addresses a conference in Jerusalem, February 2019.
אוליביה פיטוסי

An initiative to scrap Israel's general election on September 17 failed, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced Wednesday via Twitter.

"In recent days I sought to advance, for your sake, citizens of Israel, the cancelation of this superfluous election and save you billions [of shekels]. To my regret, not everyone cooperated and therefore we will not be able to cancel the election," he tweeted in Hebrew.

Edelstein had tried to drive a proposal that the Knesset, which voted in late May to disband itself after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition following a general election on April 9, would reconvene after its summer recess, via the presidency – himself and two deputies, then through the Knesset's Arrangements Committee.

>> The only reason Netanyahu would try to nix the new election | Analysis

Upon returning, Edelstein suggested, the legislators would fast-track a bill voiding its previous vote to dissolve the Knesset. The speaker had thought there was a legal mechanism supporting the move.

However, the legal counsel to parliament, Eyal Yinon, disagreed, in fact saying so before the Knesset voted to disband.

The vote to dissolve the Knesset was a point of no return, Yinon said.

Last week the Likud said that Netanyahu would study the proposal to cancel the upcoming election. But apparently, enactment of a bill to cancel the election would have involved amending parts of the basic law governing the formulation of government.

Sources in the Knesset said that the prime minister could push for a law cancelling the Knesset’s dispersal despite Yinon’s view, however the High Court of Justice would most likely block the move. A source in Likud said at the same time that Netanyahu was working on obtaining the support of 80 (out of 120) Knesset members to support canceling the election, to demonstrate the support for him if the case reached the High Court.

Another source said last week that the decision to disband was irrevocable: “Enabling the Knesset to void its move to disband itself would render the public hostage to political whims and would enable the parties to extort the prime minister.”