Israel’s Parliament Holds First Session in Spanking New Edifice

Three raps of the gavel by Speaker Kaddish Luz marked the beginning today of the first working session of Parliament in its new building.

The atmosphere was still in the spirit of yesterday’s inauguration festivities, which ended with the formal opening of the new Knesset building. Delegates of Jewish communities from 47 countries, as well as the more than 40 Speakers of foreign Parliaments, who came to Israel for the inauguration, attended the first session.

Before the session began, the visiting Speakers were received by Speaker Luz in the Chagall Hall of the new building. Each delegation brought a gift to the Knesset — paintings, independence declarations, African sculptures and silver lamps — and each in turn was given a gold medallion marking the inauguration. The session received a cable of congratulations from 44 members of the Parliament of India. India has recognized Israel but never exchanged diplomatic representatives. The message signed by representatives of several parties, including 24 members of the dominant Congress Party, extended “cordial felicitations and sincere good wishes on the inauguration of the new Knesset home.” The message also expressed the hope that Israel’s Parliament would “contribute to the development of parliamentary democracy.”

DEBATE HAS OLD RING IN NEW SURROUNDINGS; HOUSE RECESSES FOR HOLIDAYS

Despite the new surroundings, debate in the initial session soon took on the old familiar ring. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol introduced a bill to regulate the activities and functions of Israel’s Cabinet. This was one of a number of “constitutional bills” which Israel has been gradually adopting over a number of years. Menahem Beigin, speaking for the Herut-Liberal Gahal alignment, the main opposition faction, sharply criticized the bill. He said it incorporated “a number of old usages and some new regulations which are bad.”

The visiting speakers sat in the gallery and appeared to be listening attentively, although they did not understand a word of the proceedings, which were in Hebrew. After an hour, the visitors left for a tour of Jerusalem and other functions organized for them. The Knesset session today was a symbolic one. After referring Mr. Eshkol’s bill to committee, the session was ended, and Parliament resumed its recess until after the High Holy Days.

The main hall of Parliament has been arranged much like the old one. The Speaker’s dais is flanked on the left by seats for Knesset clerks; on the right there is a podium for the Knesset member addressing the house. Members sit in concentric circles, the openings of which are toward the Speaker. The innermost circle is the Government bench. One new feature of the hall is air conditioning, which was expected to lead to disappearance of a familiar sight in the old Knesset of members attending sessions in shirtsleeve.

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