JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres told the new Knesset during its opening session that "the demands of the hour must unite us."
Peres addressed the Knesset Tuesday afternoon before individual members were sworn in.
Michael Eitan of the Likud Party, who is the longest-serving lawmaker in the new Knesset, was appointed acting speaker until an election is held for a new speaker.
Peres called on the Knesset to conclude peace negotiations with the Palestinians during this parliamentary tenure and complete a constitution. He also said the lawmakers must take immediate action on relations with Israeli Arabs and to treat them as equals.
"In the Declaration of Independence, we stated that all our citizens would have equal rights and equal obligations. To be equal also entails the equal right to be different," Peres told the lawmakers. "We cannot change the past, but you can shape the future. This is your duty. Zionism has always preferred bold challenges to idleness and inactivity."
Peres cautioned the lawmakers, "In your tenure, you will have the option to choose between easy inaction and painful decisions. Act, don’t delay, because if Israel doesn’t decide, others will try to make decisions against it."