Israel’s Knesset Speaker Slammed for Shuttering Parliament
The speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday took the controversial step of shuttering the legislature until at least next week, in a move widely slammed as a blow to democracy. It followed a third inconclusive election and came as the caretaker government launched a highly contentious surveillance program to track citizens that may have come in contact with carriers of the coronavirus. Yuli Edelstein said his decision was made after his Likud party and the rival Blue and White list again failed to agree on the formation of a so-called national unity government. He added that the “democratic process and parliamentary oversight” would be restored when “we are prepared for it.” Critics, however, contend that the maneuver was much more personal in nature, following Edelstein’s refusal to convene the plenum for a vote to replace him as speaker with a Blue and White lawmaker. Additionally, it follows the filing of four bills aimed at preventing an indicted prime minister from either continuing to serve in the post or from forming a new coalition, which would effectively oust Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “A Knesset that is out of action harms the ability of the State of Israel to function well and responsibly in an emergency,” President Reuven Rivlin reportedly told to Edelstein during a subsequent phone call. “We must not let this [coronavirus] crisis, as serious as it is, harm our democratic system.” Meanwhile, over the past 24 hours, some 400 Israelis received text messages instructing them to enter home quarantine due to possible exposure to the coronavirus. The text messages resulted from the surveillance program.