19th Knesset Opening Session



Opening session of the 19th Knesset

Source: MFA, 2-5-13

5 Feb 2013

The 19th Knesset opened in a special session attended by President Shimon Peres, at which the 120 MKs declared allegiance to the State of Israel.

Opening session of the 19th Knesset

Opening session of the 19th Knesset (Photo: Reuters)
On Tuesday, February 5, 2013, at the opening session of the 19th Knesset, the incoming 120 Knesset members declared their allegiance in the presence of President Shimon Peres. Binyamin Ben Eliezer, the most senior of the MKs to be sworn in to the 19th Knesset, will act as Speaker until the new Knesset elects its Speaker. Ben Eliezer: “I am one of the last of the generation that came after the founders of the state, and I have seen and am seeing a changing of the guard.”

Pres Peres hands over the gavel to acting Knesset Speaker Ben Eliezer
(Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

According to tradition, President Peres arrived at the Knesset accompanied by horsemen and motorcyclists. He reviewed the honor guard accompanied by outgoing Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. A fanfare played by the IDF military band accompanied President Peres’ entry into the hall, where he opened the session. Peres addressed the plenary of the 19th Knesset, afer which MK Ben Eliezer declared allegiance to the State of Israel, followed by all 120 Knesset members.

Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Over a third of the 19th Knesset members – 48 – are new, the largest turnover among MKs after a single election. The 19th Knesset includes 27 women, and the average age is young. Seating arrangements will be temporary until the formation of a new government determines the alignment of the parties.

On February 2, President Peres assigned the task of forming a government to Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a period of 28 days to form a government. The President may extend the term by an additional period of time, not exceeding 14 days.

When a government has been formed, the designated prime minister presents it to the Knesset within 45 days of publication of election results in the official gazette. At this time, he announces its composition, the basic guidelines of its policy and the distribution of functions among its ministers. The prime minister then asks the Knesset for an expression of confidence. The government is installed when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it by a majority of 61 Knesset members, and then the ministers assume office.

Opening address by President Shimon Peres

(Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

On its 64th birthday the Knesset of Israel has renewed confidence and renewed legitimacy. The eyes of the public are fixed on you, the members of Knesset, in expectation that you will be their loyal representatives for the creation of a better future. In this Knesset are a record number of new Knesset members, 48 in total, and an increasing number of female Knesset members, 27. This is an achievement but still far less than the equality we seek.

During the last elections the cynicism waned and the scornfulness reduced. Young people were elected, free from the bonds of the past and with wings to fly anew. Veterans were elected and those with experience who will create a constructive balance between new and experienced. The Knesset is not above the nation, it represents the nation. It should serve the nation more than rule over it.

We are faced with serious challenges, which may turn out to be existential threats or new opportunities. We must see inwardly and look outwardly, with an investigative eye. Israel is an island in a stormy ocean. We must protect the island and work to calm the angry ocean. Domestic issues dominated the election and a new budget is the most pressing matter. Israel’s economy has avoided the surging global deficit and managed to maintain its unique position. As Prime Minister and Minister of Finance I learnt to be wary of two evils: Deficit and inflation. A rising deficit creates high interest levels and nothing is produced. Inflation gnaws away at trust in the currency and discourages investors; the success of the economy is dependent more on joining hands than twisting arms.

Cutting the deficit demands widespread political agreement and cooperation between the three parts of the market – the government, workers and employers. It is difficult to reach a deal of this sort, but it is dangerous to remain without it. I urge members of the house to join in a collective effort to curb the deficit and return to growth, the greatest challenge facing you is the expectation of the people for social reform.

On the eve of the elections you made promises, almost unanimously, that this Knesset will be the most socially-minded Knesset of all time. That you will bridge the gap between those with influence and those being worst affected by the difficulties, equal sharing of the national burden. We cannot accept a reality whereby 900,000 children lack food, and are disadvantaged when it comes to education. The State of Israel is a democracy based on individual freedom and the rule of law. Those who determine the conduct of society, the character and destiny of our democracy are the institutions of the elected representatives.

Democracy is not only the right to be equal but the equal right to be different. There is no place for discrimination. Not religious discrimination, not ethnic, not national and not gender-based discrimination. Our nation suffered from racism. We will not allow for racism in our country.

Israel is small in size but can be large in social justice. The issue is critical for young people, it is good to be young but these days it is also expensive. We demand from our young people to attain higher education, to be competitive internationally, to manage high food prices and improved medical care which has also become more expensive. The price of land has gone up because the population has increased and the size of the land remains the same, likewise the cost of accommodation. I remember the first days of Israel, there was equality but there was nothing to share. We had to create something from nothing. There is nowhere like Israel, a country that has created so much from so little. What we have has been created from almost nothing. Now we have – we must share equally. We must be caring, brothers and sisters to one another.

Members of Knesset, around us there is a storm. In the Arab world a young generation has risen who has had enough of being subjugated and they have rebelled. They have yet to achieve their aims. This is a new development. And we wish them success.

Conversely, from Iran the threat is growing. It threatens our existence and the independence of Arab states. At its head stand a group of Ayatollahs. They have become a brutal dictatorship which casts a stain on Persian history and is a nightmare for its people. That group seeks Iranian hegemony over the entire Middle East. They have terror agencies such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Iran smuggles weapons into Arab countries to undermine their stability. Iran exports wild incitement against Israel. Their leaders are both Holocaust-deniers and threaten a Holocaust. They are building a nuclear weapon and claim it is against their religion. They do not tell the truth and they denigrate the individual. They are the deniers of enlightenment in our time.

President Obama has built a wide coalition to prevent a nuclear Iran. The coalition began with diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions and has made clear that it will take no options off the table. The United States can put an end to the Iranian threat and I believe that the President of the United States is determined to do it. Iran is a threat and Syria is a tragedy. The president of Syria is butchering his own people. The United Nations must, in my opinion, give the Arab League the mandate to immediately form a transition government in Syria and to save Syria from self-destruction. Assad who has murdered so many, has also murdered Syria’s future.

Members of Knesset, protecting the security of Israel are our security forces. The IDF is rich with historic achievements and the security forces excel in their personal abilities and professional skills. The current generation of IDF commanders, and at their head the Chief of Staff, have proven once again their incredible ability and won the trust and love of the people. The IDF must constantly train its soldiers. And renew its technological advantage time and again.

Israel can develop unique technology on a global scale. The security services are focused today on building the army of tomorrow, which will be quicker and stronger. I recommend to our enemies not to be mistaken about our abilities both overt and covert. Strategy is based upon military strength and diplomatic wisdom – a strategic victory is not just defeating our enemies but securing peace. We must eradicate hostility, not only our enemies.

There is no security without an army and no peace with diplomacy. Peace requires security mechanisms and security requires diplomatic mechanisms. We made peace with Egypt and Jordan. And we started negotiations with the Palestinians. If we complete the negotiations, we will create a strategic depth which each of the components alone is missing. In Jewish tradition, peace is a traditional obligation. David Ben Gurion summed it up in one sentence: “Israel’s fate is determined by its strength and is righteousness.”

Israel’s scientific ability strengthens its political ability and increases economic output. Our high-tech transformed a recalcitrant soil into a producer of abundant crops. From one dunam of land we produce crops as if from five dunams. From one drop of water we recycle three drops. Israel has proven that even from the desert hope can spring, that makes us an example to the world. Our agriculture not only increased yield, it is also able to raise their nutritional value.

In our history we had help and in our future we will be able to help others. Already today, Israel is able to provide unique support across the world in the fight against hunger, poverty and natural disasters. In the field of terrorism we have gathered experience which we put at the disposal of other countries.

I am incredibly proud of the scientific advances in medicine in Israel both in terms of innovative equipment and unique treatment. 15% of the world’s modern medical devices are made in Israel. Medicine is the diplomacy of friends. Israel continues to march forwards in medicine. Israel is able to create a key to crack the genetic code of each individual and to reduce reliance on hospitals and medication, something that will lead to the democratization of medicine. Equality for all. Israel is also advancing when it comes to space. Israeli satellites are some of the most advanced in the world, they are smaller and cheaper, they enable smaller countries which aren’t as rich to enjoy their capabilities.

A decade ago we put Nano-technology at the center of Israel’s scientific endeavors. We were right. Today we need to put brain research at the center of our research efforts. When a person knows his own brain, he knows how to control himself, to choose wisdom over folly. Peace over violence. The European Union decided to allocate one and a quarter billion euros for brain research. The first to benefit from this program are Israeli researchers and institutions. These are the first fruits of our efforts. I am so proud. It is no coincidence.

Members of Knesset, the smallness of our territory requires a greatness of minds. An Israel that will be built on values. That will be just for all citizens. A state that will be daunting to our enemies. A country that contributes. Our foundation is the Ten Commandments. Our vision is the edge of science.

Members of Knesset, you are privileged to be representatives of the people. There is no greater right than to serve your nation. One who serves many. Better to serve the nation than rule over it. Please, carry with you a vision of a better world, for each of us individually and collectively. For our nation and other nations. The vision of the prophets is a journey from slavery to freedom, the promised land. I wish you all success.

Address by PM Netanyahu at swearing in ceremony

Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO

First, I would like to congratulate the elected Knesset Members and of course the new Knesset members. Like you, Rubi, I remember the excitement felt by a young Knesset Member on his first day. In my case, it was 25 years ago. I entered this hall and was excited at the possibility of affecting this country. My hope for you, new Knesset Members, is that you will retain that feeling of excitement and exhilaration every day you serve at the Israeli Knesset; that you will retain both the excitement and the sense of responsibility, because we have great responsibility.

We represent all segments of society – women and men, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, veteran citizens and new immigrants, members of all denominations and all faiths. Ultimately, we represent the entire public, the entire country. We represent the country and we serve the country. We are the public’s servants, and not the other way around. Therefore, we are committed to improving the lives of all Israeli citizens. This applies first and foremost to the global economic turmoil. We must safeguard Israel’s economy, preserve the livelihood of Israel’s citizens and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. This is not a simple task. When I speak to my colleagues in Europe, I understand just how formidable this task is.

We have achievements, but also a great mission. We must strive for a more equal sharing of the burden, but in a way that will not tear this nation apart. I believe it is possible and I know that it is needed. We will have to reduce the cost of living, primarily the housing prices. We will have to reform major components in our system of government.

This may be the 19th Knesset, but we will soon be forming the 33rd government. 33 governments in 65 years. It is simply unbelievable. It is less than two years per government, although the outgoing Knesset and government were a positive exception, we raised the average a little bit. We have seen what happens when we have four years, when ministers can serve for four consecutive years, when Knesset committee chairmen can serve for four consecutive years, when Knesset Members and legislators can dedicate themselves for four consecutive years to a certain issue, study it and promote it.

We have seen that we can effect great, important changes in the State of Israel. This issue that we have dealt with in the past – that I have dealt with in the past – remains unanswered. This problem is still with us. It is inconceivable that the most challenging country in the world should suffer from instability and weak governance. We need stability to deal with the quality of living for the citizens of Israel, but also to guarantee something far more superior and important.

Simultaneously with our commitment to improving the quality of life, we must first and foremost guarantee life itself, guarantee our future and our security in the face of new and mounting threats, and while addressing these threats, we must also pursue secure, stable and realistic peace with our neighbors. Security and peace. We must nurture our inner strength and unity in order to further these two causes. No one will make peace with a weak and divided Israel, and even if we reach another peace agreement with our neighbors, we will have to be very strong to secure its viability, to deter those who will seek to destroy it and to defend ourselves in the event that it collapses.

Fuad, my friend, we have visited Egypt more than half a dozen times during our last term, and one day, the regime fell. Something happened in the Middle East. A lot of things happened in the Middle East. Only a strong Israel, a very strong Israel, can guarantee its security and that of its citizens. This is my primary responsibility as Prime Minister, and it will be the responsibility of all Israeli government ministers.

However, my friends, Knesset Members, this responsibility also lies with each and every one of you. Therefore, with your permission, I have two words of advice to give you. First, the advice of Hillel the Elder: “What is hateful to you do not do to your fellow man,” because we are all human beings and we must treat each other with respect.

I will tell you a secret – the Knesset discourse is heated, often too heated, but I know that at the end of the day, the public respects those who respect their fellowmen, and if we respect each other – not without disagreement – if we respect each other, the public will respect us and we will bring honor to the Knesset. My second advice is my great hope that in times of trial, we will succeed in putting our political differences aside and uniting for our supreme common goal and that is to guarantee the security and future of our State – the State of Israel.

My friends, we are facing times of trial. May we unite in confronting them. “Hashem will give strength to His people; Hashem will bless His people with peace.”

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