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March 16, 2020 4:38 pm

In Midst of Coronvirus Crisis, Israeli Knesset Sworn In Before Nearly-Empty Chamber

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin opens the first session of Israel’s new parliament, in an unprecedentedly toned-down ceremony carried out amid the global coronavirus scare, March 16, 2020. Photo: Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH, Reuters Marketplace – DPA Multimedia Wire via Reuters.

As the coronavirus crisis intensified on Monday, the new Israeli Knesset was sworn in before a nearly empty chamber.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave a short speech and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top rival Benny Gantz — who has been tasked with trying to form the next government — swore allegiance and were then asked to leave in order to allow MKs to enter and be sworn in separately in groups of 10 to minimize the chances of infection.

Referring to Israel’s three elections over the past year, Rivlin said, “The citizens of Israel are exhausted from election campaigns that require us to sharpen our differences.”

“We are waiting for a normal daily life, a routine where we will return to the common denominator, the fate of all of us, which is so clearly expressed even in the current crisis,” he added.

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“The people of Israel have always been able to argue but are tired and worried now,” Rivlin stated. “We need rest, healing.”

Rivlin said he had only one request: “Give this people a government.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke after the president, saying of the coronavirus pandemic, “We are in the midst of an international economic and health crisis.”

He asserted that, though the chamber was physically empty, “there are millions of Israeli citizens here and for them there is one expectation — to rise up. They expect us to form a national emergency government now, an emergency government that the people can heed and trust.”

“We need to set up an emergency government that will fill the huge hole that opened over a whole year of political irresponsibility, a hole dug by elected officials from across the political spectrum,” Edelstein continued.

“The political hole can be filled today,” he said.

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