JERUSALEM (Feb. 17)
In the most impressive ceremony in the last 2,000 years of Jewish history, Dr. Chaim Weizmann was today sworn in as the first president of the state of Israel. Thousands of cheering men, women and children, soldiers and civilians, lined the streets of this city as the elder Zionist statesman took his oath of office in the temporary meeting hall of the Israeli Constituent Assembly. Dr. Weizmann’s election took place in the early hours this morning.
At 8 A.M. local time a delegation of 12 Assembly members, representing every shade of opinion and party–except the Heruth and the Communists, but including Muchamed Elsabi Said Eldin, an Arab Assembly member–proceeded to Rehovoth to inform Dr. Weizmann that he had been elected Israel’s chief of state.
Receiving the delegation, Dr. Weizmann said: “You bring me the highest possible human honor, but my days decline and my health fails and I do not know whether I will be able to bear such a great responsibility, but one promise I give you–I will not spare myself to fulfill my obligations.” The President then shook hands with each member of the delegation.
The Presidential party proceeded to Jerusalem under strong military escort and were preceded by an Army motorcycle unit. At Motza, three miles from the Holy City, shouting crowds began to line the road for a glimpse of the President.The procession stopped outside a specially-erected “Gate of Honor” where Jerusalem Mayor Daniel Amster welcomed Dr. Weizmann.
PRESIDENT SYMBOLICALLY RE-UNITES JERUSALEM WITH ISRAEL
Auster handed Dr. Weizmann a pair of scissors which the President used to cut a ribbon in front of the gate, symbolizing the re-uniting of Jerusalem with the rest of Israel. The procession stopped in front of the Jewish Agency headquarters here. Dr. Weizmann was accompanied by his wife, Police Inspector-General Yechezkiel Sacher and the Chief of Protocol. He inspected a guard of honor made up of units of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Women’s Auxiliary Forces. The Police Band then played Hatikvah and President Weizmann and his party entered the Assembly hall in the Agency building.
The Shofar was blown and flashbulbs exploded as Dr. Weizmann slowly entered the Assembly hall and took his seat. Joseph Sprinzak, Speaker of the Assembly, then rose and declared: “My President, we now proceed to swear thee in. I will now read the text of the oath to thee.”
Weizmann stood up and raised a trembling right hand and repeated : “I, Chaim Ben Ozer Weizmann, as President of the state, swear allegiance to the state of Israel and its laws.” Rabbi L. Zwebner, a member of the Assembly, then pronounced the traditional “Shehecheyanu” blessing and Sprinzak exclaimed to the Constituent Assembly: “long live the President!”
The Assembly cheered for several minutes when Weizmann declared: “From a heart’s depth full of joy and thrill and responsibility, I thank you for the honor of electing me as the first President of Israel. With all my heart and strength I wll endeavor to fulfill my lofty assignment for the benefit of my brethren and for all the inhabitants of the country and to raise the prestige of our state.
“Great is the task entrusted me,” the President continued. “I am only flesh and blood and may God forbid that I fail in my deeds, but do not regard me as an intentional sinner. This is a great hour in my life. I send blessings to all the inhabitants of the country and to the Jewish people throughout the world. I know that anything done, or anything not done, will bring light or shadow to our entire nation. I am aware of the burden of responsibility which I now enter in fulfilling my duties as President.”
The only sounds heard during the speech were Dr. Weizmann’s voice and the noise of movie cameras filming the Presidential inauguration. The members of the Assembly burst into applause when he wished Provisional Premier David Ben Gurion–who was absent from today’s proceedings on account of illness–a speedy recovery.
After his address, Dr. Weizmann shook hands with most Assembly members–one of the first being Muchammed Edin Self, an Arab. Accompanied by his Army escort, he went from the Assembly hall to the Hotel Eden for rest and a brief luncheon before returning to Rehovoth.
21-GUN SALUTES FIRED DURING CEREMONY
Twenty-one gun salutes were fired throughout Israel while Dr. Weizmann was being sworn in. After the inauguration, members of the Assembly were tendered a reception by the Jerusalem municipality.
Dr. Weizmann, was elected on the first ballot after midnight this morning by a vote of 83 to 15 for Prof. Joseph Klausner, who was nominated by the Heruth. Fifteen Assembly members abstained from voting while one ballot was declared invalid. In addition, six Assembly members were not present at the session. Four of the latter were cut of the country.
Before the voting, which was conducted by secret ballot, Eliezer Prai, rep-resenting Mapam, said that members of his party would cast their votes for Dr. Weizmann because of “his glorious past and his achievements and services for Zionism. Our voting for Dr. Weizmann does not mean that we support his political line.”
M. Ben Eliezer, speaking for the Heruth, said that his party representatives would vote against Dr. Weizmann because of “his treacherous defeatist policy.” Speaking for the Sternists in the Assembly, Nathan Friedman-Yellin declared that he would not vote for him because Dr. Weizmann “is too old to lead the nation and although he was yesterday’s great teacher, he is today a small pupil.” L. Wilber, Communist delegate, expressed opposition to both Weizmann and Klausner, because “they represent American imperialism.”
Just prior to the election, Rabbi Meir Berlin, world Mizrachi leader, with-drew his candidacy but demanded, on behalf of the Religious Bloc, that Dr. Weizmann be sworn in by Israeli Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog to demonstrate the Jewish state’s adherence to religion.
Earlier, by an overwhelming majority, the Assembly approved a transitional law for Israel to be known as a “little Constitution.” One of the clauses includes a provision that the “President must sign every law except those dealing with his procreative.”
Menachem Beigin had proposed that the Israeli President’s oath be an expression of allegiance not only to Israel but also to the “Jewish people,” but his motion was defeated. Another proposal by Beigin called for the immediate transfer of the Israeli Government to Jerusalem. This motion, too, was defeated.