As New MKs Take Oath, Peres Calls for 'Social Solidarity'

The 120 members of the 18th Knesset were sworn in yesterday, ushering in what outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he hoped would be a full four-year term - something the MKs' immediate predecessors didn't quite manage.

Before the ceremony, President Shimon Peres reiterated his call for a broad-based coalition and urged solidarity in the face of the financial crisis.

"Tens of thousands have lost their jobs," he said. "Many are having a hard time making ends meet."

Peres called for "social solidarity, like the national solidarity on display during Operation Cast Lead" and said assistance to children and the elderly should not be deferred.

Interim Knesset Speaker Michael Eitan (Likud), who was sworn in for the eighth time, compared himself to a woman giving birth to her eighth child. "Yes, I'm excited, but you know what?" he said he imagined such a mother saying. "The first time I was a lot more excited."

Perhaps MK Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu), who was also sworn in yesterday, will be able to shed light on when she will give birth to her eighth child during her first Knesset term, the first time an MK is to give birth while serving in office.

Eitan also spoke at length about the need for a constitution, prompting criticism from MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) for discussing a controversial topic during a festive occasion. Other Knesset members took issue with the length of Eitan's speech, with MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) sarcastically suggesting that the matter be discussed a bit more.

The most eventful parts of the overall smooth swearing-in ceremony included small blunders like MK Yisrael Katz (Likud) standing up a bit too early to get sworn in and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman stumbling as he rose, possibly because the plenum seats make it difficult to stand up straight.

The MKs spent the day showing their relatives and guests around the Knesset.

MK Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu) showed his guests the first room he used as a parliamentary assistant, which has since become a room for journalists. Freshman MK Masud Ganaim (UAL-Ta'al) brought his family to see the new committee rooms, almost breaking into a meeting of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu faction that was being held in the Economic Affairs Committee room. Ganaim veered away when he heard who was inside.