The Opening of the 20th Knesset
At 4 PM Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz opened the 20th Knesset session by introducing the President. President Reuven Rivlin gave the first speech of the 20th Knesset. Afterwards he swore in the most veteran MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) to serve as temporary Speaker of the House. Quotes were recited from both Tehilim (Psalms) and the declaration of independence to reflect the Jewish and democratic nature of the state. Speaker Peretz swore in his 119 colleagues with two minor interruptions by MKs Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Achmad Tibi (The Joint List). The session concluded with the national anthem Hatikva. At 4:55 PM Speaker Peretz called for a 65-minute recess for the purpose of enjoying the official toast and taking the ceremonial picture.
Following the First Recess
Speaker Peretz opened the session 32 minutes late. He announced that on March 25th President Rivlin officially handed over to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the mandate to form the next government. Knesset Steering Committee Chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud) informed the Knesset of the proposed composition of the 32-member steering committee. The Steering Committee was approved in the first Knesset vote of the 20th Knesset – 107-0. Speaker Peretz announced that the Speaker of the previous Knesset, MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud), has been nominated by nine of the ten Knesset lists to serve as Speaker for the 20th Knesset. Edelstein’s nomination was approved by the Knesset vote of 103-1 with 7 abstaining MKs from The Joint List. Minister Shalom (Likud) announced that he has voted against Edelstein’s appointment by accident. The outgoing Speaker Peretz gave the gavel to the new (old) Speaker Edelstein. Speaker Edelstein gave a warm speech thanking the Knesset for re-electing him. Following the speech Speaker Edelstein called for a recess for the Steering Committee to convene and closed the 21-minute session.
Following the Second Recess
Speaker Edelstein opened the session after a 72-minute recess. Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) announced that the Government has approved that Prime Minister Netanyahu will remain the caretaker Minister is charge of seven ministries – Finance, Health, Environment, Education, Science & Technology, Justice and Welfare. Akunis announced that in three of those ministries Netanyahu has appointed Deputy Ministers to administrate those offices – Deputy Environment Minister Akunis, Deputy Health Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) and Deputy Science & Technology Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud). Steering Committee Chairman Elkin announced that his committee has agreed on two temporary 17-MK Knesset Committees that will function until the new government if formed. Elkin designated the previous committee chairs to remain in their positions – Appropriations Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) and Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Yariv Levin (Likud). Elkin announced that the Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee would meet the next day at 9:30 AM and the Appropriations Committee at 2 PM. Elkin informed Speaker Edelstein that the Steering Committee has decided to call for a Knesset Recess starting tomorrow (April 1st) until Monday May 4th. Elkin went through the procedures for the plenum and two functioning Knesset committees during the 33-day recess. Speaker Edelstein expressed hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu would form a government before the next Knesset session on May 4th. The Speaker closed the third part of the Knesset session that lasted just ten minutes. Despite opening at 4 PM and closing at 8:15 PM the Knesset was in session for just 86 minutes.