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Knesset Convenes for Inaugural Session, 1949


After elections in January of the same year, the first official meeting of constituent representation for Israel, took place on February 14, 1949. Joseph Shprinzak was elected as Speaker of the Assembly. The Deputy Speakers were Joseph Burg and Nahum Nir, and Moshe Rosetti as Secretary General. This first Knesset focused on establishing laws to shape the new nation of Israel and help guide its future. Two days after its first meeting, on February 16, Chaim Weizmann was elected as the first President of the State. He was inaugurated the following day. David Ben Gurion, leader of the Mapai (workers party) became Prime Minister of Israel the next month and shaped two forms of government that both later dissolved in parliamentary fashion for lack of votes in the same assembly. Immigration would become a primary focus of lawmaking and current events for the first Knesset. In its early years, more people were making Israel their home. Prior to 1949, during the British Mandate, immigration into Israel would average 18,000 people per year. After establishing independence and forming new governance, Israel would see an average of 18,000 new immigrants per month. Holocaust survivors and others from around the world were pouring into Israel. Naturally the need for focusing on immigration public policy took precedence. The rise in immigration was partly responsible for the shift in both of Ben Gurion’s government plans as religious parties monitored education in transit camps for newcomers. Israel’s first Knesset lasted approximately two and a half years from 1949 to 1951. During this time, the assembly created around seven new laws per month to develop the nation. Establishing Israel for international recognition and developing treaties and ceasefire agreements by surrounding nations were other primary debates that took place. Legislating in the first Knesset also consisted with development of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and basic laws for an Israeli constitution. Israel’s acceptance to the United Nations (UN) was also a focus in 1949.


Sources and further readings:

Youtube: Historycentral, History of Israel – Part Six: The first steps of a new country

Israel Knesset Online: Knesset.gov.il - Factional and Government Makeup of the first Knesset from Knesset online: https://knesset.gov.il/review/ReviewPage.aspx?lng=3&kns=1 Jewish Virtual Library – Highlights of the First Knesset Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs – Overview of Chaim Weizmann First Knesset

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