Judicial overhaul push

Likud sanctions Edelstein for skipping votes

Senior lawmaker Yuli Edelstein missed two key votes tied to the coalition's sweeping plan to shift power from the judiciary to politicians.

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein. Photo: Noam Moskowitz/Knesset Spokesperson's Department
Likud MK Yuli Edelstein. Photo: Noam Moskowitz/Knesset Spokesperson's Department

The Likud party sanctioned senior lawmaker Yuli Edelstein on Tuesday, a day after he broke ranks, missing two key votes tied to the coalition’s sweeping plan to shift power from the judiciary to politicians.

Likud MKs told Times of Israel there was frustration with Edelstein within the parliamentary faction, for skipping votes on first readings of coalition bills to bestow preemptive immunity from court review upon certain laws and to make it harder to force a prime minister to recuse himself from his position – despite an order issued among coalition ranks for every lawmaker to appear.

Edelstein, a former minister and Knesset speaker who recently tried to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Likud’s leadership, entered the plenum shortly after judicial reform votes were tallied early on Tuesday morning, to present a separate bill that he personally sponsored, giving party MKs the impression that the snub was deliberate.

His spokesman denied the connection on Tuesday, saying among other things, that Edelstein was at a funeral for one of the votes.

Preemptive immunity, which can also override a High Court of Justice decision striking down bills, is one of the core tenets of the coalition’s bid to redraw power lines between the judiciary and politicians.

The second bill is largely seen as a shield for Netanyahu, raised after the High Court considered a petition to compel the PM to temporarily step down due to ostensible conflicts of interest overseeing judicial overhaul while himself on trial for corruption.

The coalition successfully met its goal of passing both bills with 61 votes each in a preemptive move to protect against future legal challenges, but without Edelstein, it was left with little margin for error.

According to a message from Likud, its faction director and coalition whip, MK Ofir Katz, sanctioned Edelstein by blocking him from submitting private member’s bills, adding items to the Knesset agenda, or “speaking in the name of the Likud party” for three of the Knesset’s working weeks.

The Knesset is slated to go on break on April 2, presumably pushing Edelstein’s sanction until the end of the month, until the Knesset returns from its Passover recess.

Hours before he didn’t show up for the Knesset votes, Edelstein criticised the coalition over its relentless push to radically overhaul the judiciary, amid discord in the ruling party over its handling of the process and its fallout.

Edelstein also said it was “easy” to dismiss opponents of the overhaul by saying “they are all on the left”.

Meanwhile, the heads of four major manufacturer and business organisations have reiterated a public call for dialogue on a compromise and warned of the social and economic damage already inflicted.

On Tuesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with 30 entrepreneurs and business executives to discuss the repercussions of the proposed legal revamp on the economy and for doing business in and outside of Israel.

“We’re in freefall. This is a tsunami. People around the world are telling us, we won’t bring businesses here … We’re calling on you to stop this thing and get back to talking,” those who were present were quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.

The Kohelet Policy Forum, the institution that formulated the ideological foundations for the government’s radical judicial overhaul program, also called for compromise on Tuesday over the far-reaching proposals.

with Times of Israel

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