Thirty-one new MKs and 89 veterans, accompanied by their invited guests, heard the addresses of President Shimon Peres and Acting Speaker Michael Eitan open the first session of the 18th Knesset, as they pledged to uphold the laws of the State.
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The session opened on Tuesday afternoon with King David's Psalm 121, Shir LaMaalot, sung by the Moran-Beit Yitzchak children’s choir and composed by popular Jewish music singer Yosef Kardoner. The choir, comprising many children of immigrants from Ethiopia, later also sang “Song of the Journey to the Land of Israel.”
President Shimon Peres gave the opening address, expressing his hopes that the incoming government would be able to solve problems such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, poverty, bureaucracy, and more. He also noted his request, and that of “most of the MKs with whom I met,” that Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu form a national unity government.
Peres also thanked outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for “his contributions during this very difficult period for the State of Israel.” He also noted with “personal sorrow” the recent passing of Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, a Knesset Member for the United Torah Judaism party.
Just over a quarter of the Knesset are newcomers, and several others were Knesset Members in earlier terms. Among the newcomers are Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh), head of the National Union party, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, who heads the Jewish Home-NRP, Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), as well as four journalists: Tzipi Hotobeli (Likud), Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), and Uri Orbach (Jewish Home).
In addition, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon is a rookie MK for the Likud, as is Jewish Agency Chairman Ze’ev Bielski for Kadima.
MK Michael Eitan (Likud), the most senior non-Minister in the Knesset, assumed the leadership of the session after Peres completed his speech. Following his swearing-in, Psalm 122 was read aloud by Israel Broadcasting Authority announcer Dan Kaner, and a segment of a speech by David Ben-Gurion was played aloud.
Acting Knesset Speaker Eitan then read aloud the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel, asking G-d to “bless the sprouting of our national redemption” and to “spread Your light upon those who stand at its head.” He noted that this was his eighth consecutive Knesset term, having first entered the Knesset in August 1984. Eitan also took advantage of his lengthy speech to push, among other things, for his “pet project,” a constitution for Israel.
Each new MK then committed him/herself, according to alphabetical order and from their seats, to keep and maintain the laws of Israel and the regulations of the Knesset.
The session ended with the singing of the national anthem, HaTikvah: “Our hope is not yet lost, the hope of two thousand years, to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”