image Photo: Flash90

23rd Knesset sworn in under COVID-19 limitations

The Israeli parliament, Knesset in Hebrew, held a unique swearing-in ceremony yesterday, during which small clusters of the recently elected members entered the assembly’s chambers, to pledge their personal allegiance to the state of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin and outgoing speaker Yuli Edelstein oversaw the ceremony, which was conducted under strict coronavirus-related limitation, marking the official opening of the 23rd Israeli legislature.

Prior to the swearing in ceremony, Premier Netanyahu sustained a throbbing blow, when Israeli President Reuven Rivlin granted the official mandate to attempt to form a government to Blue and White Chairperson Benny Gantz – after the former Israeli military chief was endorsed by 62 out of the 120 members of parliament. Accordingly, the Israeli President declared “I hereby, as I did this moment, give you the opportunity to form a government. The law gives you, sir, 28 days starting tomorrow, to work on forming a government. This is a short time. But in the current circumstances of national and international emergency, it’s too long.”

President Rivlin further warned that the current political crisis in Jerusalem is causing dangerous divisions among the people of Israel, to which Gantz pledged to turn every stone in order to resolve the long-overdue political deadlock.  He gave his word to “do all in my ability to establish within a few days as broad and patriotic a government as possible.” Gantz continued by saying “The time has come for less empty words and more big acts. The time has come to set aside boycotts and swords, and reconnect again all the tribes of Israel and all the citizens of Israel. We will beat the coronavirus, we will pass through this crisis, we will defeat the hatred because our hope is not gone yet.”

It is important to note that while Gantz has formally received the mandate to form Jerusalem’s next government, the negotiating teams of both Blue and White and the Likud are holding lengthy meetings, in efforts to find common grounds that will allow for the establishment of a much-needed national emergency government.

Nevertheless, the presiding gaps between the two major parties and their allied blocs are seemingly too wide. While the respective negotiating teams were discussing the possibility of a unity government, Blue and White has announced its decision to advance three legislative bills aimed at legally blocking Netanyahu from forming a future government. The proposed legislation includes a two-term cap for any future Prime Minister; the automatic termination of a Prime Minister’s term if indicted; and, the disqualification of any Parliament Member who has been indicted from forming a government.

Responding to the bill, Likud officials accused their Blue and White counterparts of negotiating in bad faith. They insisted that anyone who is holding negotiations about a unity government while simultaneously working to remove the incumbent Prime Minister doesn’t truly intend on forming a unity government. In contrast, Blue and White officials stressed that no progress has been made in the unity government talks. They blame Netanyahu’s Likud for refusing to concede on a series of unacceptable terms that would finally break Jerusalem’s political deadlock.