First Knesset  
February 14, 1949   August 20, 1951
  Results of Elections
  Factional Make-up
  Speaker: Joseph Shprinzak
  Knesset Members
Elected Officials:
President: Chaim Weizmann
State Comptroller: Siegfried Moses
Government 1
Under David Ben-Gurion

Government 2
Under David Ben-Gurion
  Selected Events:
14.2.1949 The first sitting of the Constituent Assembly was held. Joseph Shprinzak was elected as Speaker of the Assembly.
16.2.1949 The Constituent Assembly ratified the Transition Law, which changed its name to the First Knesset, and elected Chaim Weizmann as the first President of the State.
17.2.1949 Inauguration ceremony of Chaim Weizmann as President of the State of Israel.
8.3.1949 David Ben Gurion formed the First Government.
4.4.1949 The Prime Minister reported on the Ceasefire Agreements signed with Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
26.4.1949 The Prime Minister issued a statement to the Knesset about immigrant absorption and introduced the austerity program (the rationing of basic ingredients). Dov Yosef was appointed Minister of Rationing and Supply.
11.5.1949 Israel was accepted into the United Nations.
16.8.1949 A special plenum sitting was held marking the relocation of the remains of Benjamin Zeev Herzl to Israel.
5.12.1949 The Prime Minister made an announcement regarding the United Nation's debate on Jerusalem, and said it is the eternal capital and core of the State of Israel.
26.12.1949 Knesset sittings moved to the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem.

23.1.1950 The Knesset called for the construction of a government complex and a Knesset building in Jerusalem.
13.3.1950 A Knesset sitting was held for the first time in "Beit Froumine" building on King George Street in Jerusalem.
13.6.1950 The Harari Proposal was ratified. The proposal, named after MK Yizhar Harari of the Progressive Party, concerns the procedures for the preparation of Basic Laws and a Constitution.
Knesset Members of the Herut Movement
Knesset Members of the Herut Movement

Several photos from the First Knesset
"Beit Froumine" Pardes-Chana Transition Camp, 1950 Operation Magic Carpet, 23.10.1949

13.3.1951 The Minister of Foreign Affairs announced Israel’s claim for 1,500,000,000 US dollars of reparations from Germany.
14.5.1951 A Haredi extremist group, named "Brit Hakanaim" (Alliance of Zealots), planned on throwing a smoke bomb into the Knesset in protest of the upcoming debate on national service for women. The Speaker of the Knesset adjourned the sitting before the plan was executed.

A Selection of Enacted Laws

Knesset Speaker: Joseph Shprinzak
Knesset Speaker: Joseph Shprinzak
The First Knesset officiated for a period of two and a half years, during which David Ben Gurion, the leader of the Worker’s Party of Eretz Yisrael (Mapai), formed two governments: The first was dissolved over a crisis with the religious parties on the subject of the education in the transit camps, as well as an internal crisis in the Prime Minister’s party over the liquidation of the Ministry of Rationing and Supply and the appointment of a businessman as Minister of Trade and Industry. The Second Government was dissolved by the Prime Minister after the government lost a vote on a motion for the agenda – again on the subject of education in the transit camps.

The State of Israel inherited its legal system from the Government of the British Mandate, which existed in the country for more than 30 years, and the Provisional State Council began its adjustment to the needs of the new state, as well as formulating new bills. The Constituent Assembly, later named the First Knesset, continued the initial legislation process and passed an average of 7.5 new laws per month; however, the formation of a constitution was not successful. A decision was made to first pass several separate basic laws, which will be integrated into the constitution of the State of Israel.

The Knesset held its sittings in Tel Aviv for the first months of its existence, due to the continuing battles of the War of Independence. It moved to "Beit Froumine” (Froumine House) in the center of Jerusalem after the battles concluded and the city was proclaimed as the capital of the State of Israel.

Debates in the Knesset were concerned often with the failed attempts to upgrade the ceasefire agreements between and Israel and its neighbors into peace treaties, as well as the state’s status in the international arena. The Herut movement, supportive of the policy of “Two banks to the Jordan River,” was the main opposition to the Government’s policy in these matters.

The immigration, which started following the establishment of the state and more than doubled its population within two years, changed the demographic structure and the settlements’ map of the state, but it also increased substantially the state’s expenses on immigrant absorption. Though the Government encouraged private investment, the public sector and government intervened profoundly in the state economy – for both ideological and practical reasons. The economic conditions and lack of foreign currency, caused by different factors including immigrant absorption, led to a policy of rationing and first overtures on receiving reparations from Germany. The General Zionists, a faction in the opposition supportive of free economy, protested in the Knesset plenum over the government’s economic policy.

Different debates were held on the nature of the nationality of the new state. Even before the First Knesset was elected, discussions were focused on the disbanding of the Palmach and Etzel, and during its tenure, many debates were concerned with the educational streams and the Fleet Merchant Strike, in which the radical socialist position of the opposition’s United Workers’ Party (Mapam) was defeated.

Video: A State is Born

Video: A State is Born

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