The 22nd Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, was sworn-in yesterday evening, in the shadow of continued political deadlock that – unless resolved – could once again bring about a Parliamentary dissolution that will force the state into an unprecedented third round of elections.
President Reuven Rivlin addressed the Knesset plenum ahead of the ceremonial pledge of allegiance of the newly elected lawmakers – excluding the Arab Parliamentarians, who refused to grant an oath of loyalty to the Jewish State.
Rivlin drew several analogies pertaining to Jerusalem’s current political state of affairs, and urged the various parties, both big and small, to the Israeli public’s perceived demand, and to put their differences aside and form a national unity government. The Israeli head of state said: “Alongside the frustration we feel due to the political dead end we have encountered; the election results are also a badge of honor to the Israeli society. It is a red card, a red card that the citizens of Israel raised in front of their chosen representatives. A red card to populism, to a political system fed on picking on the rifts and that sees our fears from each other as a resource. The people’s eyes are looking up at you, big and small parties. An election campaign is the most expensive reality show in town. One billion and 700 million Shekels. You must remember that rating may drop from one season to the other while the result will stay similar.”
Following the swearing in ceremony, a traditional photograph of government and party leaders was taken at the Knesset’s Chagall Hall. Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed President Rivlin’s call on behalf of the public for the formation of a national unity government during his own address to the incoming lawmakers. Netanyahu told those gathered that “The Knesset expresses the nation’s decision, and the Knesset expresses the will of the nation. Now, sometimes the expression is clear cutting, and sometimes – as was the case in these previous elections – the nation expressed its desire for a government of national unity, a government of national responsibility. This is what these elections projected, a national unity government, as broad as possible, for all those that support a Jewish and Democratic state.”
Netanyahu, who is the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history, also warned of the looming threat of having to convene nationwide elections yet again. “I am attentive to the heart’s desires of the citizens of Israel,” said the Premier, adding “I tell you this, with deep conviction, the state cannot afford another round of elections. It cannot do it. It has to do everything, and I do everything, to prevent it.”
The Prime Minister also noted that while other countries around the world – including Britain, Spain, Italy and other Western countries – may face similar political upheaval , the Jewish State cannot afford such a political crisis. Pointing to an historic analogy similar to Jerusalem’s predicament, Netanyahu asserted that political infighting in pre-WWII France ultimately debilitated its determination to confront Nazi Germany. “Between January 1930 and November 1933, ten governments have been replaced in France,” said Netanyahu, adding that “They continued to bicker amongst themselves, at a time when Hitler rose to power in 1933 continued to arm himself.” Netanyahu went on to emphasize that “Democracies which did not comprehend that unity is demanded of them during times of trouble, and against trouble, paid for it a very dire price,” he said, underscoring this is “Because, history does not tolerant those that refuse to learn from its conclusions.”
Netanyahu went on to stress that the threats Israel faces “isn’t a spin; this isn’t a whim, it isn’t a “Netanyahu is trying to scare us.” He asserted that “everyone with eyes in his head can see that Iran continually arms itself, Iran consistently becomes stronger. Its boldness, its audacity is consistently increasing. It attacks the international maritime navigation routes, it attacks the Arabian Peninsula, it attacks everywhere, it sends terrorists to every place. It also attacked directly a U.S. aircraft and Saudi oil fields”
Most critically, said the Israeli leader, Iran “ declares clearly, this is what their generals said – including just two days ago – ‘Israel will cease to exist.’ This is a quote. It isn’t theory. ‘Israel will cease to exist.’ They believe this, they pursue this and we must take them with the upmost seriousness.”