Thursday, April 19, 2018

The History of the Knesset

The founders of the State of Israel did not have much time to set up and plan the specifics of government, and so it is not surprising that the country emerged from its fight for Independence with a parliamentary governing system very similar to that of the British. Like the British Parliament, Israel’s Knesset is a unicameral legislative body. It is a complex arm of government that is composed of many political parties who must work together to form coalitions in order to create a functioning government, including determining who will lead the country as Prime Minister.

Plans for development of the Knesset began prior to the withdrawal of the British Mandate troops. In April 1948, the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Israel created the Moetzet Ha’am (People’s Council). When independence was declared, this became the Provisional State Council. Elections for legislators were finally able to be held in mid-January 1949, and on February 14th, the first elected Knesset officially began.

At first, the Knesset had no home and met in a wide variety of locations, including the Kesseim Theater in Tel Aviv. At the beginning of 1950, the Knesset set itself up in the Froumin Building on Jerusalem’s King George Street. Plans, however, were already in the works for a more permanent solution. A location was chosen and architectural designs were submitted when James de Rothschild offered to finance the construction. Its cornerstone was laid in October 1958, and it was finally completed on August 31, 1966.

Elected legislators are known as Members of Knesset (MKs). There are 120 MKs, a reflection of the 120 members of the Anshei Knesset Hagadolah (Men of the Great Assembly) that was established by Ezra after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile (516 BCE).


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