Israel swears in newly elected parliament in surreal event

Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Israel swears in newly elected parliament in surreal event

  • After Netanyahu and Gantz were sworn in, they were ushered out of the hall and the lawmakers were brought in three-by-three for brief swearing-in ceremonies

JERUSALEM: Israel swore in its newly elected parliament on Monday in a surreal ceremony.
Instead of the typical festive gathering of parliament’s 120, the new lawmakers took the oath of office in groups of three over 40 staggered rounds, in keeping with a Health Ministry ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin presided over the unusual event after the Israeli Knesset, or Parliament, was thoroughly sprayed with disinfectant.
The president, flanked by the Knesset speaker and secretary, opened the first session of parliament before an empty chamber save for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz. They sat several rows apart and made little eye contact.
Rivlin called for unity and compromise from the two leaders, saying the Israeli people “are in need of rest, we are in need of healing” after three parliamentary elections in under a year.

HIGHLIGHT

The president opened the first session of parliament before an empty chamber save for PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.

After Netanyahu and Gantz were sworn in, they were ushered out of the hall and the lawmakers were brought in three-by-three for brief swearing-in ceremonies.
The event, coming two weeks after national elections, will give the country a new legislature. But Israel still seems a long way from establishing a stable government.
Rivlin on Monday formally designated Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, the task of forming a coalition after the retired military chief secured a slim majority of recommendations from incoming lawmakers.
Gantz promised to “do whatever it takes to form within as few days as possible a national, patriotic and broad government.”
But beyond a joint desire to oust the longtime prime minister, Gantz’s bloc of supporters has little in common. It is deeply divided along ideological lines and appears unlikely to band together for an alternative government that could replace Netanyahu, who faces serious legal troubles as he prepares to go on trial to face corruption charges.
Gantz’s Blue and White party submitted three bills to parliament on Monday that seek to oust Netanyahu from office.


Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

In this file photo taken on December 04, 2018, Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of US journalist Austin Tice (portrait L), who was abducted in Syria more than six years ago, speak at a press conference in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2020

Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

  • In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin’s release,” Pompeo said in a statement on the eighth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“President Trump wrote to Bashar Assad in March to propose direct dialogue.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.
Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.
In March, Trump said the United States had written a letter to authorities in Damascus, without specifying that he himself had written personally to Assad, who Washington wants out of power. At that time, Trump said he did not know if Tice was still alive.

HIGHLIGHT

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.

“No one should doubt the president’s commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas,” Pompeo said Friday.
“Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice’s case.”
Pompeo said he and Trump hoped there would be “no need for another statement like this a year from now.”
“Austin Tice’s release and return home are long, long overdue. We will do our utmost to achieve that goal,” he added.
A year ago, the US government said it believed Tice was still alive.
His mother Debra Tice said in January that she had “credible information” to that effect, without elaborating.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery.