18th Knesset will be sworn-in today

Acting Speaker Michael Eitan postpones plenum opening until the new government is formed.

peres  248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peres 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
More than three months after the 17th Knesset was dispersed, the 18th Knesset is set to be sworn in on Tuesday afternoon. All 120 of its members - some new, but almost all familiar with the parliament and its workings - will officially start their term. About 1,000 guests have been invited to the swearing-in ceremony; each new MK was given five invitations, while veteran MKs were given only two. Attendees will include President Shimon Peres, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen, as well as other Supreme Court justices, IDF brass, senior police officers, diplomats, former MKs and ministers. The Likud's Michael Eitan, the longest-serving incoming MK (he has been in the Knesset since 1984), will be appointed acting Knesset speaker Tuesday afternoon when the ceremony begins. He will replace Kadima MK Dalia Itzik until a permanent speaker is elected. Itzik plans to run for another term as speaker, as does her predecessor, Likud MK Reuven Rivlin. The festive ceremony usually gets under way with the appearance of the speaker, accompanied by a convoy of motorcyclists, but Eitan has announced that he is not interested in such an escort. "As a human being, all the formalities are not my cup of tea," Eitan said. "When I arrive at the Knesset from my house in Sderot, no one escorts me, so I don't need anyone to escort me on Tuesday when the Knesset is sworn in. I call this job a short-term deposit, and I will respect the protocol and what the law orders, but not unnecessary formalities." Peres will speak at 4 p.m., followed by Eitan reading the oath of office: "I pledge to remain loyal to the State of Israel and to fulfill my duty in the Knesset faithfully." Then, one after the other, each MK will stand and confirm his or her oath. Though the 18th Knesset starts its term officially on Tuesday, Eitan has postponed its first business session until Wednesday of next week. Because a government has not yet been formed and there is no coalition, no permanent committees can be set up, and therefore legislation activity is unlikely. In place of plenum meetings, Eitan has invited the departing ministers to sum up the achievements of their offices and to answer MKs' questions. "Many of the Knesset's activities depend on the government's actions, and when there is no government, many functions become irrelevant," Eitan said. "But the Knesset is also a platform for discussions of ideas and long-term policies. I am sure some of the ministers will enjoy presenting their achievements." By postponing the plenum's first business session, Eitan seeks to avoid the unsupervised filing of motions until a government is formed, as such procedure would have no true legal standing. He has also proposed an initiative to bring undisputed bills to the plenum for approval, although there are few such bills. When asked how he estimated the 18th Knesset would look if Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu managed to form only a narrow right-wing government, Eitan said it was best to wait and see. "But surely this Knesset will not look like the prior Knesset," he added. Until the plenum is officially convened, a few temporary institutions will be established, including a temporary Knesset presidency headed by Eitan and two deputies, an organizing committee, a temporary Finance Committee and a temporary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.