Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein resigned from his post on Wednesday after being ordered by the High Court of Justice to convene the parliament to hold a vote on his replacement.
Edelstein, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, found himself under extreme scrutiny after he suspended parliamentary activities, preventing the newly elected legislature from choosing a new speaker and forming the Arrangements Committee, one of the most vital Knesset committees without which the parliament cannot operate.
"The High Court of Justice is burying the Knesset," he said at the start of a special plenum session. "The High Court’s decision is not based on the law, but on a partisan and extreme interpretation. The High Court decision contradicts the Knesset's bylaws,” he added.
“As someone who has paid a heavy personal cost, including years of imprisonment and hard labor, for the right to live in Israel, no explanation is needed as to how much I love the State of Israel and the people of Israel.”
The speaker has adjourned the Knesset until next Monday following his speech, drawing ire of the Blue & White MKs, who said they intend to appeal against the decision to the High Court.
The resignation is set to go into effect on Thursday.
Edelstein's announcement took place as hundreds of people waving Israeli and black flags, protested outside the Knesset building. Some were holding banners that said, "Saving Democracy" and "Edelstein is a bully."
The move effectively ends any hope of a unity government being formed as Blue & White prepares to replace the speaker with a member of their own party, a condition which the Likud members find unacceptable.
Likud MK Miki Zohar called on Netanyahu to withdraw any proposals for a unity government he has tabled for Benny Gantz's party.
“We knew what was going to happen, the Joint List acted in order to create chaos in Israel and that's what it did - led Edelstein to resign,” Zohar told Ynet.
The High Court's ruling came after a hearing on Sunday that 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.
The suspension of the Knesset was allegedly done to prevent the Blue & White from advancing a bill that would stop any premier with a criminal indictment from continuing to serve.
Netanyahu is due to go on trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three corruption cases. The trial's opening hearing was set to start last week was had been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.