Jerusalem (CNN)Israel's President has warned of possible harm to the country's democracy, after the Speaker of Parliament refused to hold key parliamentary votes.
Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who has the power to decide the Knesset's schedule, ended Wednesday's session just a few minutes after it began, making it impossible to form committees to oversee government actions during the coronavirus crisis.
Edelstein has also refused to hold a vote to choose a new Speaker of the Knesset, a position he has held since 2013, despite the clear parliamentary majority to replace him.
"A Knesset that is out of action harms the ability of the State of Israel to function well and responsibly in an emergency," said President Reuven Rivlin in remarks addressed to Edelstein. "We must not let this crisis, as serious as it is, harm our democratic system."
Edelstein is a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party Likud, which risks losing its grip on power now that opposition party Blue and White has received the first chance to create a governing coalition.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz commands a wafer-thin majority in parliament. It may ultimately prove insufficient to form a government because of bitter rivalries within his bloc but is enough to elect a new speaker and advance parliamentary business. Among the first pieces of legislation Blue and White wants to pass is a bill that would make it illegal for an indicted lawmaker to become Prime Minister.
Hundreds of protesters, waving flags and banners from their cars, drove from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem Thursday to rally against Edelstein's move. Police attempted to stop the convoy as it drove along the highway, claiming they were driving slowly and causing violations.
After a temporary delay, protesters succeeded in making it past the police roadblock to eventually gather outside the High Court and th