As MKs swear in, Rivlin urges Knesset to serve all Israelis
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As MKs swear in, Rivlin urges Knesset to serve all Israelis

‘Don’t forget for a moment who sent you all here,’ president says at inaugural session of 20th Knesset

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks during the swearing in ceremony for the 20th Knesset,  March 31, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks during the swearing in ceremony for the 20th Knesset, March 31, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday addressed lawmakers at the inaugural session of the 20th Knesset, adopting a tone of gentle admonishment to remind MKs of their responsibility to serve the diverse needs of all Israeli citizens.

Speaking at the opening induction ceremony for the new MKs, Rivlin urged lawmakers to attend to the needs of the nation, saying “the time has come to return to the main players — the citizens.”

“Don’t forget for a moment who sent you all here,” he said. “Public trust is the most valuable property there is in a democracy and this trust lies now in the hands of each and every one of you.”

After a tumultuous election campaign, the president told the Knesset and assembled dignitaries, “this building is a glass house, not so that the eyes of the nation will look upon you, but for your eyes to look upon the nation.”

Knesset members are inducted in a ceremony in Jerusalem on March 31, 2015 (photo credit: Knesset spokesperson)
Knesset members are inducted in a ceremony in Jerusalem on March 31, 2015 (photo credit: Knesset spokesperson)

The March 17 election, he said, “proved once again that Israeli democracy is strong, kicking and unpredictable.”

Contrary to pre-election surveys, the Likud party won 30 seats in Israel’s parliament, beating out the rival Zionist Union to earn the right to form the next government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog during the opening session of the Knesset on March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog during the opening session of the Knesset on March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“In Carmiel and Nazareth, Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv, Ariel and Kochav Yair, Nahal Oz, Rahat and Netivot, in Jerusalem and across the country missions of citizens went out to form the Israeli mosaic of the 20th Knesset,” Rivlin said. “Their verdict designs the face of this Knesset and determines the face and future of the state of Israel for the years to come.”

Giving voice to concerns that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form a narrow right-wing and religious government which serve the interests of only its constituents, Rivlin called on MKs not to “leave the pain of the people and its demands outside the walls of the Knesset. Their pain over the lack of housing and lack of salvation, the distress of poor workers, the demands of uncompensated workers, and the ongoing concerns of the residents of the Gaza periphery.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin pose with heads of all the Israeli political parties after the opening session of the 20th Knesset on March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin pose with heads of all the Israeli political parties after the opening session of the 20th Knesset on March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After Rivlin and interim Knesset Speaker Amir Peretz addressed the plenum, MKs swore in alphabetically, pledging one by one. After swearing in, several Arab MKs from the Joint List left the Knesset hall as the lawmakers sang the national anthem, “Hatikva.” The List’s chair, Aymen Odeh, did not leave the plenum, however, and stood with head bowed as the anthem was sung.

Jonathan Beck contributed to this report.

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