Edelstein admits failure of his attempt to call off elections

Edelstein admits failure of his attempt to call off elections

Knesset speaker blames lack of cooperation from unnamed parties, still does not explain how he sought to cancel September vote

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein presides over a Knesset plenum session, on June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein presides over a Knesset plenum session, on June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Wednesday that his efforts to convince lawmakers to cancel the September 17 elections have failed.

In a tweet Edelstein wrote, “In recent days, I tried to push, for your benefit, the citizens of Israel, the cancellation of these unnecessary elections, saving us all billions [of shekels]. Unfortunately, not everyone would cooperate, so we’re not going to be able to cancel the elections.”

While analysts and lawmakers have questioned whether Edelstein’s plan was even legally viable, he has insisted the required legal tools exist.

Even if the move had been found to be legal, it would have required the support of 80 lawmakers, a highly unlikely prospect without Blue and White or other opposition parties.

A woman votes at a polling station in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, on April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Edelstein had warned that failure to cancel the coming elections could result in Israelis going to the polls for a third time in less than a year.

The Knesset speaker, a senior member of the ruling Likud party, floated the possibility of canceling the September vote, which was called by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he failed to form a government in the wake of the previous elections in April.

“My assumption is that if we don’t succeed in implementing this initiative, after September 17 these exact same players will sit around the same table and need to discuss the issues that at the moment they refuse to speak about,” Edelstein insisted on Sunday during a question and answer session at the annual Israel Disciplinary Center security conference in Herzliya.

“It is better for our country and the entire public to agree upon things now and save three months and billions of dollars,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on October 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

Though the Knesset speaker did not specify who those “same players” were or what issues they were divided on, he was likely referring to Netanyahu’s failure to form a ruling coalition. The prime minister had been unable to reconcile the ultra-Orthodox parties and the Yisrael Beytenu party on legislation concerning the enlistment of seminary students.

But rather than allow the president to task another Knesset member with forming a coalition as Israel’s Basic Laws prescribe, Netanyahu then pushed through a bill to immediately set new elections and prevent any political rival from become prime minister in his place.

Benny Gantz, the Blue and White leader, said last week that Edelstein’s plan was “legally impossible” and Netanyahu’s decision to call elections could not be reversed.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019. (Flash90)

He also asserted that, had Netanyahu not dissolved parliament, Rivlin would have tasked him with trying to form a government.

According to Channel 12, Edelstein’s workaround plan could have seen the Knesset Presidium convened to cancel parliament’s current hiatus. A new law would then be introduced that enables parliament to cancel elections.

It is not clear whether such a move is legally possible, after the legislature voted in late May to disband. Channel 13 reported last week that Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon was drafting an opinion saying there was no legal basis for canceling the September elections.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has already told politicians that calling off the vote was not legally possible, Channel 12 reported.

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