Knesset opens summer session with new MKs' inaugural speeches and little work on the agenda

Legislators have two main jobs, passing laws and overseeing the government's work, and both will be put on hold for at least another week.

May 4, 2015 22:48
4 minute read.
The Knesset


The Knesset began its summer session in low gear Monday, with the newest parliamentarians preparing their inaugural speeches and no voting on the docket.

Legislators have two main jobs, passing laws and overseeing the government's work, and both will be put on hold for at least another week, when the new government will be sworn in - if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeds in forming one.

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Even after that, the legislative process will likely be on hold for at least several more days before Knesset committees are filled and their chairpeople are appointed.

With no bills to vote on or parliamentary questions to ask, MKs busied themselves with talk about coalition negotiations before and after Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman announced his party would sit in the opposition, discussing the merits, but mostly the disadvantages, of a 61-seat coalition.

As talks continued, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein opened the plenum meeting, expressing hope that the polarizing nature of the public discourse ahead of March's election.

"Unfortunately, the public's trust in the legislature has been worn out over the years and the more extreme statements are made, the greater the harm to democracy," he stated.

At the same time, Edelstein said he is proud of Israelis for their high voting rate, despite the ugly atmosphere during the election campaign.

"I think your vote gave us, the elected officials, a line of credit, and we the burden of proof to turn your vote into one of good faith," Edelstein said.

Soon after, new MKs began giving their inaugural speeches to the Knesset, each followed by congratulatory remarks from a veteran lawmaker.

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) looked to the Mishna for guidance on how to do his parliamentary work, quoting Shimon the Righteous and pointing out that he was part of the historic Great Assembly (Anshei Knesset Hagdola) after which the Knesset was named.

"The world stands on three things: On the Torah, on work and on kindness," Zohar said. "We have our right to this land from the Torah, a source of inspiration for the State of Israel as the Jewish State.

"Work is important for all of Israel, because without hard work, we wouldn't build an amazing state that makes us proud in so many fields like technology, science, medicine and more than anything else, security, which is important for being the only democracy in the Middle East.

"And finally, kindness. What is our mission in the Knesset as elected officials, if not to act every day and every hour for the People of Israel?" he asked. "The power and strength of our society is measured by our help for the weak and acts of kindness towards it."

Joint List chairman Aimen Oudeh described his vision for 2025: "The ten-year plan to fight racism and inequality bore fruits...the social gaps between Arab and Jewish citizens shrunk, and the economy is flourishing for the good of all. Jews are learning Arabic, Arabs are learning Hebrew. Jews and Arabs learn about the great thinkers of both nations. Arab towns have urban plans, saving them the distress of having their homes destroyed. Palestine is celebrating his independence. Israel and Palestine have connections through culture, tourism and trade that grew after mutual recognition and agreement to a just solution after the conflict of many years."

Oudeh then shifted from his utopian description to the problems of today, mentioning his participation in a march from the Negev to Jerusalem for the recognition of Beduin towns and in Sunday's rally to fight discrimination against Ethiopian-Israelis.

The MK pointed out that street signs throughout the country have Arabic on them.

"Look how incredible; it didn't bring destruction to the homes of the people on those streets. Recognizing national rights does not take away from other citizens. The opposite is true, it enriches the space in which we live. We will continue to demand that we be recognized as a national group deserving of full civil and national equality, and we will fight for that," Oudeh said.

"I, Ayman Oudeh, am not a threat and neither are the half-million voters who gave us their votes, Mr. Prime Minister. Every citizen should be happy when other citizens vote and be proud that they went to the voting booths en masse despite the prime minister's policies. These votes demand national and civil equality for every citizen of the state," he added.

MK Revital Swed (Zionist Union) said she is nervous, not because of giving her first speech, but because she recognizes the power and responsibility of being a representative of the public.

Swed, a criminal defense attorney by profession, warned against weakening the judiciary.

"There are those who wish to undermine the independence and stability of the Israeli judicial system," she said, referring to judicial reforms Likud and Bayit Yehudi seek to pass. "We cannot allow the legislature to break the delicate but clear balance between it and the judiciary. We cannot raise a hand against harming the courts, which defend everyone in our society."

Swed called the High Court the protector of Israeli democracy and called for an Iron Dome to defend it, quoting former prime minister Menachem Begin as calling for the High Court to function as a constitutional court to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.

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