Netanyahu ally resigns as speaker of Israel parliament

Jerusalem (AFP) –


The speaker of Israel's parliament, an ally of Benjamin Netanyahu, resigned Wednesday, clearing the way for a vote that could see him replaced by an opponent of the embattled premier.

Yuli Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, had refused to schedule a speakership vote until a new government was formed, but stood down after the Supreme Court set a Wednesday deadline for the vote to take place.

"I hereby resign from my position as speaker of the Knesset," Edelstein said, in a move that could see a member of the centrist Blue and White party become speaker in the coming days.

That would pave the way for the opposition to take control of the legislative agenda as the country struggles to suppress a corona virus outbreak that has so far infected more than 2,000 Israelis.

The resignation comes after a year of political turmoil that has seen three inconclusive elections, and after Netanyahu imposed strict legal and security measures to deal with the pandemic.

Anti-Netanyahu forces claimed 62 seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 2 election, with the premier's right-wing party and its religious allies claiming 58.

Blue and White's leader Benny Gantz has been tasked with trying to form a government.

Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, is also fighting indictment on a series of corruption charges.