Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuli Edelstein at swearing in of 21st Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The 21st Knesset held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday, amid fanfare and reminders of the responsibilities its members were voted in to fulfill.
President Rivlin called on the lawmakers to “put the swords of the election aside and clean the dirt. Political considerations can no longer be the only compass. This is not only an expectation from you, it is the demand of all citizens of Israel from our leaders, all those who sit in this house.”
Rivlin also told opposition MKs that they should see themselves as having the privilege of being there.
“It is a great responsibility. You asked the public for its trust, and now that you have, you must justify the trust that they gave you,” he stated. “The privilege to serve the people from the opposition is proof of your loyalty to democracy. It’s a responsibility to criticize and oversee.”
Rivlin’s advice to the coalition was “to lose and win with dignity” and to “free yourselves of trying to destroy your rivals, from your feeling of victimhood, and govern with respect and love for all the kinds of citizens and communities that live here.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who was reelected, unopposed, to a third term in the position, relayed a similar message in his address.
“The citizens of Israel demand that you replace the discourse of losers and winners with one of partners,” he said. “We must immunize this stage from a shameful, violent discourse.”
MKs must always “remember who sent you here and before whom you will be held accountable - the citizens of Israel. They are watching us,” Edelstein warned.
Edelstein also spoke of the Jewish people’s deep historic roots in Jerusalem “found in Psalms by King David and the Independence Scroll by David Ben-Gurion,” and his personal journey as a Prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Union to Knesset Speaker.
Throughout the day, MKs arrived at the Knesset with their families. There are 49 new lawmakers in the 21st Knesset, many of whom expressed excitement to start work.
Three MKs were not present to be sworn in: Shelly Yacimovich of Labor, who was on vacation abroad, and Yousef Jabareen and Aida Touma-Sliman of Hadash-Ta’al.
Jabareen tweeted that “the anthem, the flag and the symbols of the state must express the equal connection to the state of Jewish and Arab citizens. All the symbols that will star in the celebratory opening meeting of the Knesset are very far from expressing this democratic principle.”
Instead, Jabareen attended a celebration of Hapoel Umm al-Fahm going up a league.
All the MKs from the predominately Arab Hadash-Ta’al and UAL-Balad parties walked out before the singing of the national anthem Hativka.
Touma-Sliman said she was abroad for a family event.
New Likud MK Nir Barkat, the wealthiest in the Knesset with an estimated net worth of half a billion shekels, asked to give up on his salary, as he did when he was mayor of Jerusalem. The Knesset is expected to reject the request for legal reasons, the logic being that MKs should be independent and not have to rely on any other source of income.