Photo: Amit Shabi
The Knesset plenum
Photo: Amit Shabi

20th Knesset sworn in; PM: We will do everything to protect our security

In speech to parliament, Netanyahu says emerging Iran nuclear deal will 'pave the way' to a nuclear-armed Tehran, after new Knesset members, including 39 freshman lawmakers, 28 women pledge their allegiance.

Two weeks after the end of a stormy election season, the Knesset convened Tuesday for a festive swearing-in ceremony, during which the lawmakers of the 20th Knesset were to declare their allegiance to the Israeli parliament and its laws.



Coalition talks were put on hold while the MKs old and new were making the way into the plenum.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech at the ceremony, and pledged the commitment of the Knesset members to "help the people of Israel remove all adversity, and close the gaps. In addition to improving the quality of life we must protect life itself."

Netanyahu welcomed the new lawmakers, saying, "We should all be proud of our unique achievement; we have preserved our precious democracy.


"This is a great achievement," he added, particularly given the fact that there is "turmoil everywhere we look."


Netanyahu with acting Knesset Speaker Amir Peretz and President Rivlin (Photo: Knesset Spokesman) (Photo: Knesset Spokesman)
Netanyahu with acting Knesset Speaker Amir Peretz and President Rivlin (Photo: Knesset Spokesman)


The prime minister wished the new MKs the best of luck, adding, "Nothing is as great and meaningful as serving the public and the country. My door is open and will continue to be open to all representatives of the selected parties; this is an invitation."


"I intend to form a government that will work for all citizens of Israel without exception. Our first mission is to mend the rifts – this is a mission that unites us all. I want to emphasize again, I am committed to lowering the cost of living with an emphasis on reducing housing prices."


Netanyahu also addressed the issue of the framework Iranian nuclear agreement being sought by international negotiators, warning that it will "pave the way" to a nuclear-armed Tehran.


"It appears the deal being formed in Lausanne will leave Iran with underground facilities, the nuclear reactor in Arak and with advanced centrifuges," Netanyahu said at the parliamentary ceremony.


"In our estimation, (the time to creation of a nuclear weapon) will be reduced to under a year and perhaps far less than that," he said.


"The greatest threat to our security and our future was and remains Iran's attempt to be armed with nuclear weapons," he said in a speech to parliament.


"We will do everything to protect our security and our future," Netanyahu said.

President Reuven Rivlin opened the session by urging all parties involved to conclude coalition talks as soon as possible. "The public infrastructure is suffering from paralysis for several long months, and we must allow it to return to full functionality. Each day that passes, exacts a higher price upon the Israeli people.


"Friends, we stand on the eve of the festival of Passover, the festival of liberation. The essence of this holiday is defined by three things; Pesach (the Passover offering made in Temple times), Matzah (unleavened bread), and Maror (the bitter herbs eaten as part of the Seder.) Similarly, this house also stands upon three things: being servants of the public, representing the changing face of Israel, and responsibility to make decisions,: Rivlin added.


The president asked the MKs to leave behind the squabbles that accompanied the election campaigns and focus on their public service. "The time has come to return focus to the main actors, the citizens of the State of Israel."


President Reuven Rivlin to MKs: "You are the emissaries of the public" (Photo: Emil Salman) (Photo: Emil Salman)
President Reuven Rivlin to MKs: "You are the emissaries of the public" (Photo: Emil Salman)


Rivlin further added: "Do not leave the pain and needs of the people at the door of the parliament building. The pain of a lack of housing, of those needing saving, the cries of the workers in poverty, the needs of the unrewarded workers, the ongoing concerns of the residents around the Gaza Strip. Bring their voices with you: to the faction meetings, to the committee rooms, to this plenum.
"Do not forget for one minute who sent you to this place; the public’s trust is the most dearest of assets in democracy. This trust is given now into the hands of each and every one of you," Rivlin stated.


Veteran MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union), who is serving as temporary Knesset Speaker, also addressed the MKs, saying, "Words can lift you up or pull you down. Incite a war or announce peace. Words are like an arrow shot from a bow – we can never take them back or cancel their effect. We must remember that polished speeches and sharp phrases are not a substitute for meaningful content. We must not blindly follow publicity stunts and gimmicks."


Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly said his party was headed for the opposition. "According to what I see and hear from Herzog, and I spoke to him personally today, he's heading for the opposition," Shmuly said. "I'm guessing an offer from Netanyahu will come in the coming weeks and he will try to reel us in. Netanyahu is already feeling the international pressure that won't allow a narrow right-wing government to operate for long. We need to be strong enough to resist the temptation." 


Likud MK Danny Danon arrives with his family (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Likud MK Danny Danon arrives with his family (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


Meanwhile, new Yesh Atid MK Haim Yellin, the former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, arrived at the Knesset for his first day with a the remains of a Gaza rocket fired at southern Israel.


New MK Haim Yellin brought a Gaza rocket from his home in southern Israel (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
New MK Haim Yellin brought a Gaza rocket from his home in southern Israel (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


"I brought a rocket with me for my office so I'll remember where I came from and who I'm representing," Yellin said.


Likud MK Gila Gamliel told Ynet that she was ready to be appointed minister. "I'm the more veteran female MK, I'm ready and my turn has come," she said.


New Kulanu MK Yoav Galant arriving at the swear-in ceremony (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
New Kulanu MK Yoav Galant arriving at the swear-in ceremony (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


After the less formal gathering, all 120 lawmakers were then to head over to the Knesset for the first official session of parliament, in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin and the outgoing speaker of the 19th Knesset, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein.


The Knesset elder, Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz, will oversee the plenum session as acting Knesset speaker. During the session, MKs will be officially notified that Benjamin Netanyahu has been tasked with forming the next government.


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MKs will then select a permanent speaker for the 20th Knesset, after which a government announcement will be issued stating the prime minister will appoint all the ministers and deputy ministers of the 34th Israeli government.


A seminar for new MKs

The 120 Knesset members include 39 just embarking on their legislative careers, who were earlier this week treated to a special seminar on the inner workings of parliament.


The 19th Knesset had 49 new members and a record number of women – 27 in total. That record was broken on March 17, when voters gave 28 women seats in the Knesset. At the seminar earlier this week, Knesset Secretary-General Yardena Meller-Horowitz (the first woman to hold the post) provided the new Knesset members with a comprehensive explanation of how the parliament and its plethora of departments work.


New Kulanu MK Yifat Bitton (Photo: Knesset Spokesman)
New Kulanu MK Yifat Bitton (Photo: Knesset Spokesman)

New Likud MK Nava Boker (Photo: Gil Yohanan) (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
New Likud MK Nava Boker (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


Sports broadcaster and journalist Zuhair Bahalul (Zionist Union) was among the 39 new MKs at the seminar.


"You could say we got similar support when we entered the first grade - it involved a lot of curiosity and a lot of questions," he said.


Bahalul said that he and his new colleagues had learned a thing or two about the workings of the Knesset, "for example, the process of law before its passage (and) the legal pitfalls. These are things that we knew in theory, but were not familiar with the exact process."


Zuhair Bahalul: Supportive environment (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Zuhair Bahalul: Supportive environment (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


The freshman legislators also learned about the work of the Knesset committees, legislative and legal consultation, the Knesset Research Center, and the issues of security at the Knesset compound.


"I'm a little jealous of you, a good jealousy of course", said outgoing Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. "There is nothing quite like the feeling when you make the declaration of allegiance for the first time. In this building, one can also be an idler, but not many of them are re-elected. It all depends on the public responsibility and personal motivation of each and every one of you."


The party with the highest number of new MKs is, unsurprisingly, the new Kulanu faction, whose MKs, aside chairman Moshe Kahlon, are all swearing allegiance for the first time.


The Likud faction will also present 11 new MKs, including Dr. Anat Berko, who said of the seminar: "I felt kind of like I did when I enlisted at the age of 18. It was the (Knesset equivalent of) a recruitment center. We were welcomed very nicely, and I am sure I will learn a lot as we go along. They gave us the feeling that we can ask anything and that we are not supposed to know it all on day one."


Reuters and AFP contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 03.31.15, 10:32
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