23rd Knesset:
Rivlin: 'I have just one request: Give this people a government'

Knesset Members sworn in three at a time. Earlier, President entrusts assembling government with MK Benny Gantz.

Mordechai Sones ,

President and Knesset Speaker preside over empty plenum
President and Knesset Speaker preside over empty plenum
Haim Zach

The 23rd Knesset convened for swearing-in today, according to the law that states that a new Knesset must be sworn in 14 days after the Knesset elections.

In light of the coronavirus crisis and the fear of spreading the virus, the Knesset's inauguration took place differently than usual, and not in the solemn presence of 120 Knesset Members.

Members of the 23rd Knesset entered the plenary hall in groups of three at a time and after hearing the oath of allegiance and pledging, they vacated their place in the plenary hall for those who followed.

At the opening of the session, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addressed the critical need to establish a national emergency government.

"You see an empty plenum before you," the Knesset Speaker said to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman MK Benny Gantz continuing: "but it's not empty. It is full. There are now all the citizens of Israel, millions of them. They expect us to form a national emergency government now.

"An emergency government that the people can listen to, that the people can trust. A government that addresses the serious problems of the coronavirus crisis - but not only that. An emergency government that will begin to fill the huge chasm that opened during a whole year of political irresponsibility, a pit that was dug together by elected officials from across the political spectrum," Edelstein added.

"You know full well that I didn't wait patiently for the coronavirus. I repeatedly called to establish a unity government. At the previous swearing-in ceremony, I offered the use of my bureau, which is a few meters away, to reach agreements to establish a broad government. That bureau is still open. You can begin to repair the political chasm today, right now, and face the enormous challenges ahead of us and those still to come. It is not the time to fill the protocols with long speeches. It's time for action. The people of Israel look at us and expect of us. Let's meet their expectations."

President and Speaker address Prime Minister in empty plenum
Haim Zach

President Reuven Rivlin was received in a special official ceremony at the entrance to the Knesset and laid a wreath at the memorial for Israel’s fallen soldiers. The President gave a special speech at the inaugural sitting of the 23rd Knesset, after which the members were sworn in in small groups.

President Rivlin spoke of the urgent need for a government: “The requirement for compromise, to make deep and painful concessions, is the will of the people itself. I have just one request to make of you. Give this people a government."

President Rivlin continued: “The current political crisis is very real, very deep, and is breaking us in two. And we still have no other choice, because we have no other people and no other country. We were destined to live together.”

After yesterday, representatives of the 23rd Knesset factions arrived at the President's house, and after 61 Knesset members recommended the President to impose forming the government on Benny Gantz, Gantz received the mandate from the President at noon today.

After receiving the mandate, Gantz spoke with Labor-Meretz and Yisrael Beyteinu leaders, and arranged to meet with them for coalition negotiations.

President Rivlin’s remarks in full:

“It is an honor to open the inaugural sitting of the 23rd Knesset today, Monday 16 March 2020 / 20 Adar 5780. Honored guests, the Israeli people are exhausted by elections that demand we sharpen the differences between us. We are looking forward to the day-to-day, the routine, when we will all return to what we have in common, our shared fate that is expressed so clearly in the current crisis. The people of Israel have always known how to disagree, but they are tired and worried now. We need rest and we need healing.

"Honored guests, Members of Knesset, representatives of the people. Politics is far from perfect. But politics is meant to be the art of the possible. Often, politics needs to be the art of compromise. Yes, the need and the compromise. At the heart of democracy lies the understanding that what often creates the requirement for compromise, to make deep and painful concessions, is the will of the people itself. A people where opinion is deeply and sharply divided must still find a way to fund what it does and its shared activities. The wisdom of necessity is something that needs to be used at times. It is easiest to postpone a compromise if there is an alternative. But sometimes, friends, there simply is none. The current political crisis is very real, very deep and is breaking us in two. And we still have no other choice, because we have no other people and no other country. In democracy, we may be able to replace the leadership, but we cannot replace the people. Not some of it, not one half of it and not the other half of it. We were destined to live together.

"And so I have just one request to make of you. Give this people a government. In the words of the Prayer for the State of Israel, ‘Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption. Shield it with Your lovingkindness, envelop it in Your peace, and bestow Your light and truth upon its leaders, ministers, and advisors, and grace them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our holy land, grant them deliverance, and adorn them in a mantle of victory. Establish peace in the land and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness.’

"Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein MK, I invite you to be sworn in. I am honored to hand the chair of this meeting to the Speaker of the Knesset.”