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Rivlin Hails Israel’s “Strong” Democracy as 20th Knesset Sworn In

Though coalition negotiations are not yet complete, members of the 20th Knesset, including 39 first-timers, were sworn in in a ceremony today.

President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin exhorted the legislators “to attend to the needs of the nation, saying ‘the time has come to return to the main players — the citizens,’” according to the Times of Israel. [1]

After a tumultuous election campaign, the president told the Knesset and assembled dignitaries, “this building is a glass house, not so that the eyes of the nation will look upon you, but for your eyes to look upon the nation.”

The March 17 election, he said, “proved once again that Israeli democracy is strong, kicking and unpredictable.” Contrary to pre-election surveys, the Likud party won 30 seats in Israel’s parliament, beating out the rival Zionist Union to earn the right to form the next government.

“In Carmiel and Nazareth, Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv, Ariel and Kochav Yair, Nahal Oz, Rahat and Netivot, in Jerusalem and across the country missions of citizens went out to form the Israeli mosaic of the 20th Knesset,” Rivlin said. “Their verdict designs the face of this Knesset and determines the face and future of the state of Israel for the years to come.”

The Jerusalem Post reported [2] that former Labor Party leader Amir Peretz was sworn in as temporary speaker of the Knesset for the swearing-in ceremony.

During the celebratory meeting, poet Erez Biton, winner of this year’s Israel Prize for poetry, read Psalm 122, and a recording of first prime minister David Ben-Gurion declaring the establishment of the state was played.

Then, the 119 MKs – all but Peretz – were sworn in with the phrase: “I pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and to faithfully fulfill my mission in the Knesset.”

After that, the MKs sang Hatikva. Members of the Joint Arab List left the hall during the singing of the national anthem, with the exception of members of the Hadash faction.

Five new legislators who are citizens of foreign countries renounced their citizenship [3] before joining the Knesset. The Times of Israel profiled a number of new MK’s who have “colorful” pasts [4], including Yoav Kisch, the grandson of the highest ranking Jewish officer in the British army, and Ksenia Svetlova, who, in her capacity as a reporter on Arab affairs, interviewed Yasser Arafat and Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Another new Knesset member who is well-known for his previous experience is former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, now of the Kulanu Party, who was accompanied to the ceremonies by his parents.

[Photo: Courtesy Knesset Speaker ]