Only a Strong Israel Can Guarantee Peace for Its Citizens, Netanyahu Tells New Knesset

A record of 27 female MKs will be entering the Knesset, while one-third of incoming Knesset members will be kippa-wearing religious Jews; 48 fresh faces sworn-in this year.

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Israel's 19th Knesset commenced on Tuesday in a festive ceremony led by President Shimon Peres.

During the ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the new Knesset members that they must represent and serve the public, and not the other way around:

"We must safeguard Israel's economy during these turbulent economic times," Netanyahu said. "We will lower the cost of living and housing prices, we must create new workplaces."

The incoming Knesset's 120 members chosen in Israel's election exactly two weeks ago were sworn in throughout the day on Tuesday. The various political parties held their faction meetings of the Knesset session during the day.

While addressing challenges such as the quality of life in Israel, Netanyahu added, "We must first safeguard life itself from new threats. And while answering these threats, try to attain a safe, stable peace with our neighbors."

"No-one will make peace with a weak and divided Israel," Netanyahu declared. "Only a strong, a very strong Israel can guarantee peace for itself and its neighbors. That is my ultimate responsibility as prime minister and the responsibility of the ministers – and my friends, members of the Knesset, this is also the responsibility of each and every one of you."

Knesset incumbents were joined on Tuesday by an unprecedented 48 new MKs and another four MKs (Shas's Aryeh Deri, Hatnuah's Amram Mitzna, Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu's Tzachi Hanegbi, and Habayit Hayehudi's Nissan Slomiansky) who will re-enter the Knesset after an interim period spent outside it.

A festive cocktail reception opened at 4 P.M. for the formal swearing-in ceremony.
MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who is also the most senior member in the incoming Knesset, was appointed temporary Knesset speaker as well. Ben-Eliezer will fill the role of speaker, until the Knesset chooses a replacement, which will likely occur when a government coalition is formed.

In the absence of a government coalition, the Knesset plenum will appoint members to the Knesset Arrangements Committee to select representatives for the three committees that will operate from Tuesday until the establishment of the next government coalition: the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Knesset Finance Committee and the Knesset House Committee.

The 19th Knesset is expected to differ substantially from the Knesset that preceded it in several aspects. The incoming Knesset will have a record 27 female MKs. The new Knesset will have more kippa-wearing religious Jews, who now constitute one-third of the Knesset's members. The incoming Knesset will also have more journalists, with nine of the incoming MKs having previously worked in the media. Another three incoming MKS gained experience in politics by serving as the head of the National Union of Israeli Students. The 19th Knesset also won't lack for individuals with national security backgrounds. Two former IDF chiefs of staff, two major generals, four former police commissioners and one former director of the Shin Bet security service and one former deputy head of the Shin Bet will all be present.

Beyond the changes in personnel, the new Knesset is expected to promote a substantially different agenda from the previous one. Alongside a large expected cut to the government budget, Knesset members will seek to promote a law to more equally distribute Israel's social burden by increasing the amount of Israelis who work and serve in the army.

New MKs are also expected to promote an affordable housing reform and changes in Israel's method of governance. One of the topics that were prominent in the previous Knesset, linking Israeli citizenship to perceived loyalty to the state, is expected to take a back seat to other issues, as the number of MKs who supported such legislation has been drastically reduced in the incoming Knesset.

Frfom left: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outgoing Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and President Shimon Peres.Credit: Knesset Spokesman Office

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