March 23 (UPI) -- Israel's High Court of Justice on Monday urged Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to get back to work and schedule a leadership vote, which could replace him in the top post, by the middle of the week.
Edelstein, a Likud Party member and supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, suspended Knesset activities last week out of concern for spreading the coronavirus. The suspension means lawmakers haven't been able to convene and stage votes to put together the new parliamentary body following national elections early this month.
The Blue and White Party holds a slim majority in the Knesset, meaning Edelstein could be replaced as speaker of the body.
The High Court ruled Monday that Edelstein exceeded his power when he suspended activity. The justices urged him to schedule a parliamentary leadership vote by Monday night. The vote, they said, should occur no later than Wednesday.
The office of Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said the speaker's effort to delay the vote endangers Israel's democracy. Tourism minister Yariv Levin accused the court of trying to replace the Knesset.
"The High Court has officially taken control over the Knesset and made the Knesset speaker into a rubber stamp," he said. "The Knesset is now run by the judges. This does not happen in any other democracy."
The court ruling was a victory for the Blue and White Party and leader Benny Gantz.
Edelstein's position is considered important in what's become a caretaker government in Israel since the last three national elections failed to produce a Likud majority or a coalition government.
Gantz's party is hoping to advance legislation to prevent Netanyahu, who faces an impending corruption trial, from becoming prime minister again. The proposal would bar any Knesset member under indictment from forming a government.