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Israel: Gantz elected as Knesset Speaker after Supreme Court orders vote

Blue and White alliance leader and former Israeli chief of staff, Benny Gantz delivers a speech during a meeting ahead of the general elections which will be held on 2 March in Rehovot, Israel on 18 February 2020. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
Blue and White alliance leader and former Israeli chief of staff, Benny Gantz delivers a speech during a meeting ahead of the general elections which will be held on 2 March in Rehovot, Israel on 18 February 2020. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]

Blue and White bloc leader Benny Gantz has been elected as Speaker of Israel's parliament after the Supreme Court ordered the Knesset to convene and elect someone to succeed Yuli Edelstein, who resigned on Wednesday. Amir Peretz MK, the most senior Knesset member, was asked to lead the voting session.

Edelstein was a key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week he suspended the Knesset under the pretext of preventive measures prohibiting large gatherings as part of efforts to confront the coronavirus spread. However, on Monday the Supreme Court gave Edelstein until Wednesday to convene the Knesset and vote for his replacement, but he refused to schedule a voting session until a new government has been formed.

Edelstein slammed the Supreme Court decision, saying that it was not based on the law but on "unilateral interpretation" as well as being contrary to the "essence of the parliament". He submitted his resignation on Wednesday morning, prompting the court to convene again and order the Knesset to elect a new Speaker.

READ: Arab representation in the Knesset and its limitations

The Israeli opposition led by the Blue and White bloc led by Gantz has been pushing to convene parliament to push through a law that limits the prime minister's tenure to two terms and to prevent indicted ministers from holding office. Such laws would damage his rival Netanyahu, who has already served four terms and is facing trials in three corruption cases.

However, the election of Gantz signals a possible power-sharing deal with Netanyahu's Likud. According to the Guardian, the former general "took a risk by nominating himself for speaker" and has been "accused of blindsiding allies and supporters in the process." Ironically, as Knesset Speaker, he may now "protect Netanyahu" from legislation that could damage the Prime Minister, "to keep the possibility of a unity government alive."

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