Israel’s New Parliament Sworn In
JERUSALEM (AP) _ The daughter of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and a former adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were both sworn in as first-time Israeli lawmakers in a new parliament fraught with divisions and bursting with personality.
Forty-one new legislators took their place in the 120-seat Knesset, which opened Monday for the first time since elections May 17.
This Knesset will be home to more women and Arab legislators than any previous Israeli parliament and, for the first time, an Arab woman legislator was sworn-in.
Parties supporting Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak’s peace policies with the Palestinians and Syria won a majority in the house. But 15 different factions are split along ethnic and religious lines.
Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli-Arab who resigned as Arafat’s adviser to run for parliament, was needled by a Jewish lawmaker from the extreme right when he was sworn in Monday.
As Tibi pledged to uphold loyalty to the state of Israel, Rehavaam Zeevi interrupted, shouting ″ Do you intend to stand by this oath?″
Such rowdy exchanges are typical of Israel’s parliament.
Yosef Lapid, a sharp-tongued former talk-show host and journalist who ran on an anti-religious slate, found himself seated during the swearing-in ceremony next to ultra-Orthodox lawmakers. Later, he agreed to shake hands with Shlomo Ben Izri, a legislator from the powerful Shas party, which Lapid has said should be excluded from Barak’s government.
Another handshake effort came between Azmi Bishara, an Israeli-Arab who supports Palestinian statehood and Michael Kleiner, a Jewish lawmaker who has vowed to oppose such an entity. At the request of an Israeli TV reporter, Bishara agreed to the handshake but then said ``I’m not one for performances.″
Ayub Kara, a member of the Druse Arab sect was told his oath was invalid because, against house rules, he added comments to his pledge. After he repeated the official pledge ``I commit myself,″ he added ``to work for the release of Azzam Azzam,″ a fellow Druze who was convicted and jailed of spying in Egypt.
Kara was told he will have to take the oath again at a later date.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was honored with the task of presiding over the opening of the 15th Knesset. Peres, who has been in politics since Israel was established 51 years ago, said he never tires of parliament.
In his opening speech, the 75-year-old peace visionary who began historic talks with the PLO in 1993, evoked the name of his predecessor and partner Yitzhak Rabin who was murdered by another Jew in 1995 who opposed his peace policies.
Rabin’s daughter, Dalia Rabin-Philosof said it was the assassination that led her into politics. ``I have no doubt that if (Rabin) had been there today, I wouldn’t have been,″ she said, accompanied by her husband, two children and mother Leah.
Mrs. Rabin sat in the visitor’s gallery next to Nava Barak, the wife of Israel’s next prime minister.