22nd Knesset sworn in amid political uncertainty.

President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Knesset inauguration
President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Knesset inauguration. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


Israeli democracy is in a state of emergency, and a government must be formed as soon as possible, President Reuven Rivlin said at the 22nd Knesset’s inaugural meeting on Thursday.

Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addressed the long period of political uncertainty, which saw the 21st Knesset be inaugurated in April and dissolved less than two months later. They both said the solution is a unity government.

“We are facing a time of crisis for the House of Jacob, an emergency for Israel’s security and for Israeli society, an emergency for Israeli democracy,” Rivlin said. “Forming a government is not only the wish of the people. More than ever, in times like these, it is an economic and security need the likes of which we have not known for many years.”

Rivlin said a broad governing coalition would allow Israelis “to put the disagreements between us to one side and work on finding areas of agreement… to give us all an opportunity to breathe a little, to heal.”

The president listed a number of “real life” areas that the government must address, from combating the Iranian threat to making day-care cheaper to tackling rising crime in Arab communities.

Rivlin also asked Israelis for forgiveness if he did anything that hurt them, as is customary before Yom Kippur, which begins Tuesday evening.

Edelstein was practical in his speech, addressing remarks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz: “My office is a few meters away. Sit. Talk. Turn over every stone until you find a formula. We can bridge the gaps. We can repair the tears. We certainly can reach unity.”

The Knesset speaker said Israelis will not forgive the MKs if a third election is held within a year.

“Let’s not fool ourselves that we can place blame on each other,” he warned. “We will all carry it.”

Eight of the lawmakers sworn in on Thursday were new to the Knesset. The 22nd Knesset will have 28 female MKs, one less than the Knesset sworn in April. The 20th Knesset (2015-2019) reached a record of 35 women, but had only 28 immediately after the election.

The Knesset will have four members of the LGBTQ community, one less than in April. This may be the first Knesset in which no member has a mustache without a beard, after Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz shaved off his in an election campaign stunt, and Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi did as well to much less fanfare.

Edelstein remained Knesset speaker in the interim, though his future in that capacity depends on the coalition. He told KAN Bet on Thursday that he would be would be willing to take part in a rotation in the role if need be.

On Thursday, the Knesset authorized Likud MK Miki Zohar – as chairman of the Knesset Arrangements Committee, which serves as an interim House Committee – to determine when the Knesset meets until there are permanent committees. The Knesset also authorized Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi to be interim Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman. UTJ MK Moshe Gafni remains Finance Committee chairman, a position he has held consecutively since 2015, as well as many years before that.

In a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office earlier in the day, Netanyahu invited Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman to join the coalition he is trying to form.

Netanyahu told his former ally and current political nemesis that he should join as soon as possible, in order to contribute to the formation of a unity government.

However, Netanyahu’s spokesman said the meeting did not result in a breakthrough.

Liberman released a statement after the meeting saying that he urged Netanyahu to have Likud, Blue and White, and Yisrael Beytenu meet to decide the next government’s guidelines on policy, and only then deal with distributing portfolios as well as who should go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.

If no progress is made toward building a coalition in upcoming days, Netanyahu is expected to return his mandate to form a government to Rivlin.

The Joint List’s 13 MKs did not attend the Knesset inauguration, as they were taking part in the High Follow-Up Council for Arab Citizens of Israel’s general strike, in protest over what they called police apathy in the face of rising crime and violence in Arab communities that includes more than 70 murders this year.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post