Israel swears in new parliament amid call for unity

April 30, 2019
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The general view of the plenum during the swearing in ceremony at the Caesar Premier Jerusalem in Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Members of Israel's parliament are being sworn in at the Knesset, the country's legislature, three weeks after a tumultuous national election.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, were sworn in on Tuesday, three weeks after a tumultuous national election.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivered a message of national unity to the 120 members of parliament ahead of the swearing in ceremony in Jerusalem, calling upon them “to fight for our common home where secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, Jews and Arabs ... right and left can find themselves equal.”

He urged them to “put down the cudgels of elections and to clean up the mess” after the “difficult election campaign” that saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevail.

The new parliament includes 49 new lawmakers, including many fresh faces from Netanyahu’s main rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. The Knesset features only 29 female members, fewer than the previous parliament, but includes the first female member of the country’s Druze religious minority.

Netanyahu has been tasked with building a governing coalition after his Likud party and its ultra-Orthodox and nationalist allies won a 65-seat majority.

Simultaneously, the long-serving premier faces an upcoming hearing with the attorney general over a battery of corruption allegations.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three cases. Mandelblit will decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu after the hearing, which will take place no later than mid-July.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has called the charges the product of a media-orchestrated witch hunt to depose him.

If Netanyahu succeeds in building a government, he will commence his fourth consecutive term as prime minister, and his fifth overall. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration, Netanyahu said the possibility of a future sixth term as prime minister “rested in the hands of the nation.”

“So long as the public wants me to serve it, and so long as I can serve it, I will continue to serve it,” Netanyahu said.

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