Five-ton stone from 2nd Temple period
Five-ton stone from 2nd Temple periodsrael News Photo: Antiquites Authority

A new archaeological garden dubbed "Peace be within thy Palaces” will be dedicated outside the Knesset chambers on Tuesday, the day after the 18th Knesset begins what is likely to be a long, hot summer session. Even before the Knesset Members gathered for the afternoon opening, verbal shots were fired as the coalition crushed the Opposition with a Knesset House Committee decision to reduce the number of MKs on committees.

The move was made to allow the committees to be manned following a record number of 30 MKs serving as ministers and eight others as deputy ministers. The powerful Knesset Finance Committee, which formerly had 19 MKs, now will have only 17. Committees for immigration, the status of women and children’s rights will have only seven members instead of 15.

Kadima, which leads the Opposition, opposed the suggestion on principle but ended up voting with the coalition in order not to lose even more representation on the committees.

However, Kadima is not planning to offer the Netanyahu-led government a helping hand. The coalition faces five non-confidence votes on the first day of the summer session, which opens at 4 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT). Kadima’s motion will be based on what it calls the "confused policies of the Netanyahu government." Other motions, all of which will be easily defeated by the government, are to be presented by Meretz and the three Arab parties.

The most intense struggle may take place within the coalition, where the Labor party is split. Five MKs bitterly opposed the party’s joining Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Shas. Party chairman Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has bypassed party secretary and MK Eitan Cabel, one of the five opponents, and has used a cellular phone message to convene a committee meeting on Sunday to discuss his motion to dismiss Cabel from his party position.

If the MKs want to find some peace, they can stroll through the Knesset's new archeological garden, which includes 50 artifacts on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority.They date from the Second Temple period through the Ottoman period.The heaviest item is a five-ton stone from the Temple Mount wall, dating from the Second Temple period.

Also on display is an olive press, ancient inscriptions, large impressive mosaics and a large Ottoman drinking installation.

Left: A mosaic from Nahal Kidron. Photograph: Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority.