By Nir Hasson, Haaretz
The 17th Knesset will be sworn in tomorrow in its maiden session. At precisely 4:00 P.M., President Moshe Katsav will call the legislature to order with three blows of a gavel. He will then invite MK Shimon Peres (Kadima) to conduct the session. As the most senior MK, Peres will be acting speaker of the Knesset until a permanent speaker is selected.
About 1,000 guests have been invited to the opening session: former cabinet ministers and MKs, foreign diplomats, Supreme Court justices, the chief rabbis, heads of religious sects and other dignitaries.
The 38 new MKs who will be sworn in are looking forward to tomorrow's ceremony.
"I'm really excited," freshman MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) said. "It's the first significant ceremony of my life." Yachimovich has invited her family to the ceremony. "My mother is proud of me," she says.
Yachimovich declares that in the Knesset she will continue to deal with the same issues she tackled as a journalist, "economics and labor. My ambition is to bring back terms like 'organized labor,' 'collective contracts,' 'right to strike,' to defend workers' rights. That's the most important area, which also can lead to disaster."
Yachimovich declared that if Labor is named to head the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee she will compete for the chairmanship within Labor. She also wants to head the Finance Committee and the Committee on the Status of Women, "despite the fact that the ability to affect the status of women lies mainly in the other committees."
"Politics is a profession," Yachimovich says. "I don't know whether I'll be a good politician."
The title of "most diligent MK" for the 17th Knesset goes to Dov Hanin (Hadash). Two days before the swearing-in and he already has 80 bills ready to be introduced. They deal with Hanin's areas of interest: social welfare, the environment and human rights. Two examples: "The Polluter Pays," which Hanin says is "a law designed to prevent a situation where it is profitable to pollute the environment in Israel, and a law that would make employers, rather than contractors, responsible for upholding workers' rights."
Hanin adds, "I'm optimistic. I found people in the Knesset who aren't close to me politically but who have the will and the energy to effect change. I hope we can find areas in which party obedience will not be significant. I know most Israelis think that people enter the Knesset in order to be exploitative, but I see it as a challenge."
"Lots of people gave me the honor of being in the Knesset, and I have to pay them back," tyro MK Yosef Chagall (Yisrael Beiteinu) says. Chagall's route to the Knesset was similar to that of Yachimovich. He was a journalist in the Russian-language press for 18 years.
"I'll be the first MK from Baku, and I already have plans for cooperation with the parliament in Azerbaijan," Chagall declares. "I also mean to take up the issue of young immigrants from the Soviet Union [sic]."
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), for whom tomorrow marks the start of his fourth term, says it's natural for the newbies to be excited but warns "all that glitters is not gold."