The Supreme Court on Sunday sided with attorney general's position that the steps taken to combat coronavirus shouldn't prevent Knesset activities from going ahead. The court also said it decided, in the meantime, not to rule in favor of calling for a vote to replace the under-fire Knesset speaker.
The hearing was held following a petition from civil rights groups demanding the Knesset resume its full activities even amid restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut at the start of the hearing said the court will only hold a hearing on the opposition's request to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and not on the resumption of Knesset activities.
She said the court sides with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's stance that the parliament suspension is not justified by the steps taken by health officials. She added since - as Edelstein claimed - the government is in the process of finding the right technology to hold plenum sessions remotely, the parliament is not technically closed.
The court gave the Knesset until Tuesday to present a solution to how the plenum sessions will be held remotely.
Among Edelstein's supporters at the hearing was Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon, who argued that replacing a speaker before a new government is formed could paralyze the parliament.
“We could be in serious trouble if, in a few weeks, there would be a Knesset speaker from the opposition,” said Yinon. “Every Monday and Thursday we would have a crisis where the Knesset speaker is pressured by the opposition in order to sabotage government legislation.”
Edelstein, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, last week suspended parliamentary activities, preventing the newly elected legislature from choosing a new speaker and forming committees critical to the country's fight against coronavirus.
Edelstein says the move is merely procedural given the state of emergency in the country and the Health Ministry guidelines prohibiting large public gatherings.
But opponents claim it's a calculated move aimed at blocking efforts to replace Edelstein and allowing the newly elected anti-Netanyahu bloc from pushing through its legislative agenda.
The petitioners saw support Sunday from former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who said the Knesset should be operating with certain adjustments despite the coronavirus outbreak.
The Yamina leader, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing bloc, said that parliaments in the rest of the world had not ceased activity during the outbreak and that provisions should be made to offset the votes of MKs who are in isolation.