First, I would like to congratulate the elected Knesset members and of course the new Knesset members. Like you, Rubi [Rivlin], I remember the excitement felt by a young Knesset member on his first day. In my case, it was 25 years ago. I entered this hall and was excited at the possibility of affecting this country.
My hope for you, new Knesset members is that you will retain that feeling of excitement and exhilaration every day you serve at the Israeli Knesset; that you will retain both the excitement and the sense of responsibility because we have great responsibility.
We represent all segments of society -- women and men, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, veteran citizens and new immigrants, members of all denominations and all faiths. Ultimately, we represent the entire public, the entire country. We represent the country and we serve the country. We are the public's servants, and not the other way around. Therefore, we are committed to improving the lives of all Israeli citizens. This applies first and foremost to the global economic turmoil. We must safeguard Israel's economy, preserve the livelihood of Israel's citizens and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. This is not a simple task. When I speak to my colleagues in Europe, I understand just how formidable this task is.
We have achievements, but also a great mission. We must strive for a more equal sharing of the burden, but in a way that will not tear this nation apart. I believe it is possible and I know that it is needed. We will have to reduce the cost of living, primarily the housing prices. We will have to reform major components in our system of government. This may be the 19th Knesset, but we will soon be forming the 33rd government -- 33 governments in 65 years. It is simply unbelievable. It is less than two years per government, although the outgoing Knesset and government were a positive exception, we raised the average a little bit.
We have seen what happens when we have four years, when ministers can serve for four consecutive years, when Knesset committee chairmen can serve for four consecutive years, when Knesset members and legislators can dedicate themselves for four consecutive years to a certain issue, study it and promote it.
We have seen that we can effect great, important changes in the State of Israel. This issue that we have dealt with in the past -- that I have dealt with in the past -- remains unanswered. This problem is still with us. It is inconceivable that the most challenging country in the world should suffer from instability and weak governance. We need stability to deal with the quality of living for the citizens of Israel, but also to guarantee something far more superior and important.
Simultaneously with our commitment to improving the quality of life, we must first and foremost guarantee life itself, guarantee our future and our security in the face of new and mounting threats, and while addressing these threats, we must also pursue secure, stable and realistic peace with our neighbors -- security and peace.
We must nurture our inner strength and unity in order to further these two causes. No one will make peace with a weak and divided Israel, and even if we reach another peace agreement with our neighbors, we will have to be very strong to secure its viability to deter those who will seek to destroy it and to defend ourselves in the event that it collapses.
Fuad [Ben-Eliezer], my friend, we have visited Egypt more than half a dozen times during our last term, and one day, the regime fell. Something happened in the Middle East. A lot of things happened in the Middle East. Only a strong Israel, a very strong Israel, can guarantee its security and that of its citizens. This is my primary responsibility as prime minister, and it will be the responsibility of all Israeli government ministers.
However, my friends, Knesset members, this responsibility also lies with each and every one of you. Therefore, with your permission, I have two words of advice to give you.
First, the advice of Hillel the Elder: "What is hateful to you do not do to your fellow man" because we are all human beings and we must treat each other with respect. I will tell you a secret -- the Knesset discourse is heated, often too heated, but I know that at the end of the day, the public respects those who respect their fellowmen, and if we respect each other -- not without disagreement -- if we respect each other, the public will respect us and we will bring honor to the Knesset.
My second advice is my great hope that in times of trial, we will succeed in putting our political differences aside and uniting for our supreme common goal and that is to guarantee the security and future of our state -- the State of Israel.
My friends, we are facing times of trial. May we unite in confronting them. "Hashem [the Lord] will give strength to His people; Hashem will bless His people with peace."