In surreal scenes, Knesset sworn in 3 members at a time amid virus crisis

‘Give this people a government,’ pleads president in speech to near- empty chamber; Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi arrives to take oath despite exposure to suspected COVID-19 patient

In a surreal ceremony, the 23rd Knesset convened on Monday in the shadow of the COVID-19 outbreak, with its 120 lawmakers inducted in batches of three to avoid the spread of the virus and its leaders giving their usually festive opening remarks to an empty hall.

President Reuven Rivlin opened the parliament swearing-in with an address to the only three lawmakers present — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

In his speech, Rivlin implored the political parties to resolve their differences and form a coalition, putting an end to the deadlock that has left the country without a functioning government since December 2018.

Earlier in the day, Rivlin had given Gantz first shot at forming a government, after the Blue and White leader picked up recommendations from 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers. But it remained unclear whether Gantz could successfully do so without Netanyahu’s Likud.

After three consecutive elections, Rivlin said Israelis are “exhausted” by politics.

“We are looking forward to the day-to-day, the routine, when we will all return to what we have in common, our shared fate that is expressed so clearly in the current crisis,” he said, referring to the outbreak of the virus.

The president pleaded with the political leaders to compromise.

“Politics is far from perfect. But politics is meant to be the art of the possible. Often, politics needs to be the art of compromise… At the heart of democracy lies the understanding that what often creates the requirement for compromise, to make deep and painful concessions, is the will of the people itself,” he said.

Rivlin continued: “The current political crisis is very real, very deep and is breaking us in two. And we still have no other choice, because we have no other people and no other country. In democracy, we may be able to replace the leadership, but we cannot replace the people. Not some of it, not one half of it and not the other half of it. We were destined to live together.”

Edelstein, who on Sunday blocked an attempt by Blue and White to replace him as Knesset speaker, also told the president, Netanyahu, and Gantz that an emergency unity government must swiftly  be formed.

“The plenum is empty, but with us are the millions of citizens who badly need an emergency government,” said Edelstein.

After Edelstein, Netanyahu and Gantz took their oaths, the other lawmakers were brought in, three at a time and in alphabetical order, to be sworn in.

The Knesset guard administered fever checks for those entering parliament.

According to Channel 12, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi was asked not to attend after being exposed to the husband of a coronavirus patient, who is also suspected of having contracted the virus.

But Hanegbi entered parliament nonetheless. Hanegbi later said he stayed in his office after arriving at the Knesset and kept a distance from other people when he was sworn in. After taking his oath, he left the Knesset.

Along with Blue and White MKs Ram Ben-Barak and Alon Shuster, Hanegbi had been at an agricultural conference where a man whose wife is confirmed to have the virus was present. Neither Ben-Barak or Shuster was at the swearing-in ceremony.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


New Knesset sworn in, Rivlin urges coalition to be ‘ honorable winners’

The president called on MKs to put political strategy behind and ‘clean the dirt’ after elections season; with traditional ceremonies, 120 Knesset members declared their commitment to the State of Israel

Israel’s 21st Knesset was ceremoniously sworn in on Tuesday afternoon, including its 49 new members, while President Reuven Rivlin urged for unity and mutual respect.

Rivlin spoke at the opening ceremony and criticized the heated campaigns that preceded the April 9 elections, and pleaded MKs to put aside all differences, stop slamming their political rivals and have clean and honest debates which he called “the only thing that gives this home (of ours) a right to exist, and its status as a Jewish and democratic country a strong base.”

“We’ve been through a rough campaign season. We’ve slammed others and got slammed ourselves,” said the president. “Enough now. We must rise above, put our swords aside and clean the dirt. Political strategy can no longer be the only the sole compass.”

Rivlin addressed both the coalition and the opposition and shared from his experience on both sides. “It is a great right to serve the people from the opposition, as much as it is a great responsibility,” said the president.

Rivlin cited Menahem Begin, who was the opposition leader for several terms before he became prime minister, and told the crowd that during the swearing in of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1963, Begin gave everybody a lesson about the important role of the opposition.

“He (Eshkol) must know that we aspire to move him and his colleagues to the opposition, and it isn’t only our right — it is our duty,” cited the president.

To the opposition Rivlin said they must be “honorable winners.”

“You are not in the opposition, you have been holding the reins of power and leadership for a long time now,” said the president, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 5th term in office.

“It is your duty to stop trying to finish off you rivals, let go of the victimhood, and reign with respect and love over all the different kind of citizens who live here,” Rivlin concluded.

After all 120 MKs stood up and declared their commitment to serve, the national anthem, Hatikva, was sung by all but the Arab parties, who did not participate and left the hall.

 

The article was published on Ynet


Rivlin officially tasks Netanyahu with forming next government

The right-wing bloc is expected to consist of the Likud, Kulanu, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties – a 65-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin officially tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to form a governing coalition.

Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a new government. Rivlin may grant a 14-day extension, if necessary.

The right-wing bloc is expected to consist of the Likud, Kulanu, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties – a 65-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

“This was a tough election campaign. Things were said that should not have been said, from all sides. Not in a democratic state and not in the Jewish state,” said Rivlin. “The iron wall should be between us and our enemies, not inside our own home, not between us.”

Additionally, the president lamented that less women will serve in the upcoming government than the previous one.

“Unfortunately, this Knesset will have far fewer women than the previous Knesset. We have lost vital women’s representation in the Knesset and the government,” said Rivlin. “I hope that the new Knesset and government will include women ministers and committee chairs, and ensure that the voice of women is present and clearly heard, on the issues themselves and as a message to the public.”

Netanyahu’s re-election to his fifth term last week will make him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since the founding father and first leader of the Jewish nation, David Ben-Gurion.

The article was published on JNS


German FM: I will take part in the 70th anniversary celebrations

President Reuven Rivlin meets German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who says: Our countries have very special ties.

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday held a working meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“We always appreciate and remember the deep commitment of the German government to Israel and the Jewish people,” Rivlin told his guest.

Maas thanked the President for the warm welcome and added, “Our countries have very special ties and I want to clarify this at the beginning of my term. As Minister of Justice, I visited Israel many times and shared joint initiatives with my colleague Ayelet Shaked.”

The Minister continued, “I was very pleased to accept our embassy’s invitation to take part in Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Germany has a genuine desire to take part in and assist in all the major issues that plague the world, and part of the reason for my visit is the desire to know what is bothering the citizens of Israel.”

The President and the Minister discussed at length the expansion of the Iranian threat in the region and the various possibilities available to the free world to respond to this threat. The President reiterated that the State of Israel would not accept a reality of an Iranian presence on its border and that the regional armament led by Iran places the entire region under real danger.

Maas made it clear that Germany would not accept Iran’s position calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and that Germany would not accept the existence of an Iranian nuclear program. The Minister stressed that the State of Israel’s concerns are taken seriously and responsibly in the face of the existing threats.

Germany has several times in the past taken a harsh stance regarding Iran’s treatment of Israel.

The previous German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said in 2016 that Iran could only have normal, friendly relations with Germany when it accepted the right of Israel to exist.

Following those remarks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani both cancelled meetings with Gabriel.

Gabriel made similar remarks during a previous visit to Iran, when he said that “questioning [Israel’s] right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept.”

The article was published on Arutz 7


Israel pauses to remember 6 million murdered in Holocaust

Two-minute siren brings country to a standstill amid memorial ceremonies marking annual remembrance day

Israelis across the country paused for two minutes Monday morning in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in Europe under Nazi rule as a siren pierced the clear blue sky in an annual marking of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The 10 a.m. siren was to be followed by ceremonies at schools, memorials and elsewhere in honor of those who lost their lives, as well as Shoah survivors.

The country’s central commemoration event got underway immediately after the siren at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, where dignitaries will lay wreaths next to a monument commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.

Among those taking part in the wreath-laying are President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Restoring Their Identities: The Fate of the Individual During the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem said ahead of Remembrance Day.

At 11 a.m. the Knesset was scheduled to mark the day with a ceremony titled “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” in which lawmakers recite names of victims of the Nazis for nearly two hours.

The ceremony’s name comes from a famous poem by the Israeli poet Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky (commonly referred to by her first name alone). The musical version, which is often played at memorial ceremonies, repeats, “Unto every person there is a name given by…their mother and father,” “their sins,” “their loves,” and “their death.”

Decades after the liberation of the Nazi camps, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day continues to be marked with solemnity in Israel, with restaurants, stores and entertainment centers closed and Holocaust-themed movies and documentaries broadcast on TV and radio.

Most schools and many preschools hold official assemblies where students honor the dead and hear stories from survivors.

At 1:30 p.m. local time, thousands of people are expected to take part in the March of the Living event in Poland, walking along the three kilometers (1.8 miles) of railway tracks between the sites of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.

Chief Justice Miriam Naor and Education Minister Naftali Bennett will accompany a delegation of Israeli officials and Jewish students from around the world at the annual march.

The Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies began at Yad Vashem on Sunday evening, with six survivors lighting beacons — one for every million Jews slain. Moshe Ha-Elion, Moshe Jakubowitz, Jeannine Sebbane-Bouhanna, Moshe Porat, Max Privler and Elka Abramovitz were chosen to light the symbolic torches this year.

During the ceremony, Rivlin said that Holocaust survivors had bequeathed a solemn message to the world that people must preserve their humanity, even in the face of the greatest horrors.

The president said Holocaust remembrance and the lessons to be learned from the genocide of the Jewish people are founded on three central pillars: self-defense, a shared destiny, and human rights.

“Man is beloved, every man, created in God’s image. This is a sacred obligation that the Jewish people cannot and does not wish to evade. At all times. In every situation. So too, we cannot remain silent in face of the horrors being committed far away from us, and certainly those happening just across the border,” he noted, referring to the Syrian civil war that is estimated to have cost over 300,000 lives. “Maintaining one’s humanity: this is the immense courage bequeathed to us by the victims – and by you, the survivors of the Shoah.”

Rivlin’s words stood in stark contrast to Netanyahu’s, whose main thrust was to blame the Allies’ failure to bomb the Nazi concentration camps from 1942, which he said cost the lives of four million Jews and millions of others.

Citing recently released UN documents that show the Allies were aware of the scale of the Holocaust in 1942, some two years earlier than previously assumed, Netanyahu said this new research assumed “a terrible significance.”

“If the powers in 1942 had acted against the death camps — and all that was needed was repeated bombing of the camps — had they acted then, they could have saved 4 million Jews and millions of other people.”

“The powers knew, and they did not act,” he told the audience at the national ceremony at Yad Vashem.

In a bleak address, the Israeli prime minister said that the Holocaust was enabled by three factors: the vast hatred of the Jews, global indifference to the horrors, and “the terrible weakness of our people in the Diaspora.”

The Article was published on The Times of Israel


Netanyahu tells French PM he rejects Paris peace bid, but offers to meet Abbas

Manuel Valls, in Israel to advance his country’s plan for Mideast summit, says he has ‘a genuine desire to help the situation’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Monday the French initiative for an multinational conference to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, telling French Prime Minister Manuel Valls that direct negotiations were the only path forward toward a lasting agreement.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Jerusalem before a closed-door meeting with Valls, Netanyahu said a multilateral effort would replace bilateral talks and not bring about any agreement.

“Peace is not achieved in international UN-style conferences, nor through international diktats that come of meetings of countries around the world sitting to decide our fate,” Netanyahu said. “Peace is achieved through direct negotiations where the Palestinian Authority would face a historic choice: recognize a Jewish state side by side with a demilitarized Palestinian sate, or try to eliminate it.”

The meeting with Valls came as part a two-day trip to the region by the French premier that began Sunday, aimed at advancing his country’s plan for the summit in the face of opposition from Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister claimed Monday that the international conference was being used by the Palestinian leadership as a way to prevent direct talks with Israel.

“The Palestinian Authority does not see the French initiative as an inducer for negotiations, but as a way to avoid them,” he said.

Instead, Netanayhu said, he would be willing to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “in Paris or wherever,” and hold face-to-face negotiations without international mediation. “Every difficult issue will be on the table,” he said.

Valls said he would welcomeF160523YS03-635x357 direct negotiations and would speak to French President Francois Hollande about the proposal.

Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries on June 3, without the Israelis and Palestinians present.

According to the plan, another conference would then be held in the autumn, this time with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal would be to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.

Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Earlier Monday Valls met with President Reuven Rivlin, who, in his first public statements on the French initiative, also criticized the plan, saying “there are no shortcuts in the Middle East.”

Preempting Netanyahu’s comments, he said that Israel was weary of such international efforts as they absolved the Palestinians of responsibility to negotiate.

Valls told both Rivlin and Netanyahu that France had Israel’s best interests in mind.

“France has a genuine and real desire to help the situation between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said in his statements to both Rivlin and Netanyahu.

Before his meetings with senior Israeli officials, Valls visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he laid a wreath in memory of the six millions Jews killed during the Holocaust. He also went to the Givat Shaul ceremony in Jerusalem cemetery to visit the graves of four French citizens killed in the January 2015 attack on the Hypermarche Kosher supermarket in Paris, and whose bodies were bought for burial in Israel.

After meeting with Netanyhau Valls will travel to Ramallah for a series of talks with Palestinian Authority officals, including meeting with Abbas.

Valls’s visit comes at a time of political turbulence in Israel, with Netanyahu expected to soon finalize coalition negotiations with the Yisrael Beytenu party, led by hardliner Avigdor Liberman, who is detested by the Palestinians.

Liberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement, is expected to take on the key role of defense minister.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told his cabinet that adding Liberman to the coalition would not negatively impact peace efforts.

“A broad government will continue to strive for a diplomatic process with the Palestinians and we will do so with the assistance of elements in the region. I personally deal with this a lot, in many places, and I intend to continue to do so,” he told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

To watch the meeting with PM Netanyahu klick HERE

The Article was published on The Times of Israel on  24 may 2016.