Knesset Opens the Winter Session

YERUSHALAYIM -
President Yitzchak Herzog speaks at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, Monday. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Speaker of the Knesset MK Mickey Levy opened the Knesset’s winter session on Monday in a special ceremony in the Knesset plenum, in the presence of President Yitzchak Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Chief Justice Esther Hayut.

The Speaker addressed the many challenges facing the Knesset: “The time has come to put an end to the opposition’s unprecedented boycott of parliamentary activities and of a crucial part of the Israeli democracy. The Israeli public is tired of our quarrels and baseless hatred. It hurts the public to see its representatives engaging in such terrible discourse and cursing each other. It hurts the public to see its representatives incapable of working together on issues that are dear to us all.

“Enough with the violent discourse. Enough with the baseless hatred. Enough with the boycotting. Yes to mutual respect. Yes to cooperation. Yes to unity among the people.”

President Herzog addressed the opening of the winter assembly of the 24h Knesset: “Three months ago, on this very stage, I swore an oath of allegiance before you, to faithfully and lovingly fulfill the role of President of the State of Israel. I made a commitment then, before the whole Israeli population, to embark on a journey between the fault lines and fissures of Israeli society. A journey that will aim to find what unites us, despite our differences; what brings us together, despite our rifts. A journey to rediscover us: citizens, communities and societies, the different cultures and tunes among us — sharing the same prayers and longings, the same hopes and dreams. The complicated and ever-rare portrait that is our dear State of Israel, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

“Now, more than ever, at the opening of the second session of the 24th Knesset, you, MKs, have not a second chance, but a fourth. An opportunity that you must not squander — to build a better life in the State of Israel, for the sake of all of us. I call on you to grab this opportunity with your bare hands. We stand on the cusp of a new year, at the opening of a new Knesset session, during which the state budget — including the government’s work plan — will be submitted for your approval, representatives of the people.

“The nasty and dastardly coronavirus, which has taught us all a great lesson in humility, will continue to accompany people’s lives all around the world. The preparation and advance planning can already be felt in government ministries, local authorities and the third sector, which longs for government budgets.

“This house too, all parts of it, must find a way to return quickly to respectful, decent and ongoing discourse between the coalition and opposition, between the opposition and coalition. In the course of this session, many complicated issues will make their way to the Knesset Plenary. Fight for your beliefs, with determination and passion. This is your duty as elected representatives and as envoys to this house. But even within the frenzy of debate, do not forget: matter-of-fact arguments — yes. Legitimacy for thuggery — no.

“The Israeli public is looking at you and listening to you, for better and for worse. The daily confrontations in this house, the style, the vulgarity — this is what the youth of Israel are seeing. For each and every one of us, in words and in deeds, it has an influence on the face of our State of Israel. The choices that each and every one of us make every day shape their tomorrow. And all we have is the power of our personal example to have an influence, calm things down, change direction.

“Therefore, I call on you: Choose anew, every day, to speak. Choose to engage in a respectful and respectable, proper and fair dialogue, even if it is assertive. As the President of the United States, a friend of Israel, our friend Joe Biden said: ‘Not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.’ This is true at points of consensus and is all the more relevant at points of discord, as painful and ferocious as they may be.”