“It is my honor to open the First Session of the Twenty-Fifth Knesset, today, Tuesday, 21 Cheshvan 5783, 15 November 2022. 

 

“Before I begin, I wish to address the awful terror attack this morning in Ariel, an attack that wounds the heart and rattles the soul, in which a depraved terrorist targeted innocents, whose only crime was wanting to lead quiet lives in their country—our country, and in the Land of Israel. Israel will continue to stand firmly and assertively, everywhere and always, against acts of terror and hatred that rear their heads and menace us all. On behalf of the entire Israeli people, I share the deep grief of the victims’ families and of the city of Ariel, and I pray for the health of the injured. 

“To Israel’s enemies and those who wish us ill, including those responsible for this attack, to those who would have us divided and weak, I wish to send this unambiguous message: you shall not succeed in rattling our might and our cohesion, not by means of threats, not through violence, not through terror, nor by means of foolish endeavors on the international stage. Those who rise up to destroy us will always find us ready and determined, one hand clutching a weapon and the other extended in peace. Our security forces will continue protecting our citizens; the State of Israel’s diplomatic and judicial institutions, including our Supreme Court, will continue serving as our diplomatic and judicial defensive wall in the international arena; and above all, you shall face the mighty, eternal Israeli spirit, uncompromising and unflinching. Make no mistake, haters of Israel: our domestic arguments reflect the power of our democracy and our internal resilience. It is precisely because of them, and especially because of them, that you shall never defeat us.

 

“Dear members of Knesset, we have a tradition that in the Temple in I, the outgoing guard used to bless the incoming guard, saying, ‘May He who caused His Name to dwell in this house cause love and brotherhood, peace and camaraderie to dwell among you’ (Berakhot 12a). I wish to express thanks to the outgoing guard, the Twenty-Fourth Knesset, coalition and opposition alike; to you, my friend, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy MK, who acted and worked with a sense of duty and faith; to the Thirty-Sixth Government and all its ministers, led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his predecessor, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, for your work and cooperation on behalf of this nation and this state. 

 

“And I wish to bless you and the incoming guard, the Twenty-Fifth Knesset, and especially new members of Knesset, the leader of the Opposition, and the candidate who has been assigned the task of forming a government, Benjamin Netanyahu MK, and members of the Thirty-Seventh Government, to be formed in its time, with this same blessing: ‘May He who caused His Name to dwell in this house cause love and brotherhood, peace and camaraderie to dwell among you.’ This is your most important task. This is the mission of this House. 

 

“I wish to note two parties that I shall personally miss, as shall some of you, I am sure, in the current Knesset. Two parties with deep historical roots of a century or so of contributions to building our people, our land, and our state: Meretz and the National Religious Party (Mafdal), in their various incarnations.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I come here from the graveside of the First President of the State of Israel, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, of blessed memory. I come from the state memorial ceremony marking seventy years since his passing. President Weizmann, the ‘founding father,’ as he was called, a scientist and a statesman, who successfully worked to bring about the historic Balfour Declaration, often spoke of his vision for the State of Israel and the essential conditions for its realization. On our country’s fourth Independence Day, he underscored, and I quote: ‘The future of the State of Israel rests on three foundations: fraternal love, an effort to build, and peace to all near and far.’ Thus he spoke.

 

“Fraternal love: this was the first and most basic pillar of Weizmann’s vision, and it remains the core condition for our future. Unity, cohesion, and the enhancement of what we have in common. Deepening our recognition and understanding that we disagree on many issues, and often adhere to different lifestyles, opinions, and beliefs from each other, yet despite and above it all—sisters and brothers we remain, sharing not only a covenant of fate but also a covenant of destiny. To live here together. To deal with our challenges, together. To build ourselves here, together. 

 

“Sisters and brothers, conscious of what this Plenum has known and reflected for decades: that arguments have value, and there is a way of managing these arguments—with listening, with respect, with openness. Not arguments of boycotts, not arguments of negating and erasing the other, not heavy-handed disagreements that become destructive disagreements. 

 

“Our historical experience teaches us that every time this nation has chosen to walk down separate paths; every time a disagreement was not conducted by peaceful means; every time one side turned one way, and the other side turned another, down one path to Judah and down another to Israel, the result was unspeakably awful. We lost our way. And we lost our home. This is all the more true nowadays, when in the whirlwind of elections, what unites us was pushed out of sight, and what divides us stole the show. 

 

“The citizens of Israel today are proud of their country, which this year will celebrate seventy-five years of independence, and they believe in the righteousness of its cause; but at the same time, to tell you the truth, they are exhausted from the infighting and its fallout. Now, the responsibility lies first and foremost with you, the public’s elected representatives. Responsibility to try to wean us off this addiction to never-ending conflicts, and if I may, off the excessive enslavement to ‘what will they write and what will they say?’, to ‘what will get more reactions, likes, and shares?’, and to ‘how can we cause a social media storm?’ Responsibility to take a deep breath, investigate the facts, and engage in careful consideration before every speech, interview, or time you hit the keyboard. Responsibility to strengthen the partnership between all stripes of Israeli society, from all faiths and religions—Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians, and Circassians, Haredi and secular, traditionalist and religious; those who are finely represented in this House, and those who are less so; those who will receive the reins of power, and those who will sit on the Opposition benches. Responsibility to walk arm-in-arm as we continue our collective journey.  

 

“As you know, last week I met your representatives—representatives of the parliamentary groups—in the consultations I held at the President’s Residence, in accordance with Basic Law: The Government. I thank these representatives for our fascinating, in-depth conversations, which reflected in a fine and respectful manner the diverse breadth of positions, opinions, and beliefs within Israeli society and among its elected officials on important and vital issues for our existence. Such is the power of Israeli democracy and I firmly believe that here too, in the Knesset that is sworn-in today, this power will find expression. 

 

“Dear members of Knesset, the Israeli public has had its say and has elected you in impressive numbers to work in its name. Now, the citizens of Israel expect you simply to work for them. They expect you, and all of us, to work for them in the committees, in the Plenum, and in your assorted public and parliamentary roles. They expect us, all of us, to wake up every morning and look out for them. To lower the cost of living; to enhance personal security; to improve education and welfare; to solve the congestion on the roads; to reduce inequality between the periphery and the center; to contribute and to play a role in the global confrontation with the climate crisis, which endangers our lives and our children’s lives; to develop, nurture, and improve the lives of all of us here, as lives full of values and meaning, identity, pride, and hope, and so many more important challenges—this is what concerns the citizens of Israel. This is what you must focus on day and night. 

 

“I wish to recall especially at this festive session that there are also communities, and especially minorities, who are fearful that their needs will not be on the agenda. You, the public’s elected representatives, must give this your consideration and keep them in your sights, too.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, this country’s founders’ choice, based on Theodor Herzl’s doctrine and vision, of a representative democratic regime, in which all citizens have equal rights, and in which there are limitations on power, and authorities are separated and balanced, was a good and wise choice. This was how we built a state and a society here prosperous beyond imagination; this was how we lay the foundations of governance and law; and this, as I have said, was how we created powerful authorities that operate, as required, separately from each other. We must strictly safeguard these important foundations. 

 

On this festive day, it is only proper that we recall that the power of the legislature is part of a necessary and broader system of checks and balances. Let me underscore: not only is change possible; there are places where change is proper and desirable. It is allowed, and sometimes even required, to reopen for debate the division of powers and authorities between the various branches of government, which balance each other. But we must do so through listening, through open dialogue, through respectful discourse—and fairly. This is of course a mission that confronts all three branches of government—legislature, executive, and judiciary—which must be attentive to each other while at the same time remaining committed to our collective vision as a people and as a state. 

 

“Even at moments of the deepest and most destabilizing disagreement, which you will surely yet experience here in the Plenum, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, not to forget the words of the Book of Proverbs—“Death and life are in the power of the tongue”—and all the more so, not to forget that these branches, the branches of the Israeli state, are not amorphous institutions or imaginary entities, but are made up of people, human beings—public sector workers, public servants, elected officials. I ask all of us—leaders, emissaries, and representatives of the public—to make a special effort to maintain the dignity of those who dedicate their lives to serving our people and our state. IDF soldiers and commanders, doctors and nurses, police officers and prison wardens, principals and teachers, attorneys and judges, social workers, and many other devoted public servants who are working day by day, hour by hour, for us, for the general public, with a sense of duty and commitment to their mission. It is permissible to criticize them all, and some of them, you are obligated to oversee, but please, please do so respectfully and responsibly. 

 

“I pray from here for the wellbeing of all those who serve our people and our state, and I pray that we all know days of peace, security, and prosperity. Together with the whole Israeli public, I pray for the return of our sons Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who fought for the defense of our homeland and never returned; and for Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, citizens of the State of Israel held in captivity, along with all those missing from Israel’s wars. I wish to pray for the full recovery of all injured IDF soldiers, physically and psychologically, and for all of Israel’s sick, and I embrace the bereaved families. At this podium, in the heart of our people’s eternal capital, I also wish to send my wishes to our brothers and sisters across the Diaspora, following us from all communities around the world, their eyes gazing toward us, with love of Israel. You are important to us, and we are important to you. The bonds between us are unbreakable. 

 

“Dear members of the Twenty-Fifth Knesset of the State of Israel, I wish to end my remarks by quoting the Third President, Zalman Shazar, who said during the inauguration of this Knesset building, here in the National Quarter: ‘On the gates of this lofty abode will be etched in invisible yet eternal letters the foundational principles of human democracy inscribed on our oldest treasures since our earliest days as a people, namely: one constitution for foreigner and citizen alike; not following a crowd to do evil; saving the oppressed from their oppressors; letting your kin live by your side; justice, justice, you shall pursue; and the earth shall be full of knowledge.’ On behalf of the Israeli people, I congratulate each and every one of you, members of the Twenty-Fifth Knesset, and wish you, and all sections of this House, great success, as you embark on your journey in the service of us all. Your success is our success. Good luck.”

 

Further details: Eylon Levy, International Media Advisor to the President of the State of Israel (050-661-6162/eylon@president.gov.il)