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After three months of campaigning as Kadima's candidate for prime minister and three weeks of political horse trading, Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will relinquish the word interim from his title next week and move to the Prime Minister's Office.
New prime ministers are traditionally given a grace period of 100 days to get their office in order and to learn how to lead the country on the job. But Olmert has already had his 100 days in office, and the opposition is determined to give him a trial by fire.
Olmert has already overcome many challenges, and he has been careful not to make the symbolic move one seat over to the chair that until recently belonged to former prime minister Ariel Sharon. When he assumes the proverbial prime ministerial throne next week, he will have to avoid the 10 plagues that could bring down his new empire (with compliments to Rabbi Stewart Weiss, who wrote about Israel's current plagues on Pessah).
Blood: The first test of any prime minister in Israel is to prevent terrorist attacks. With a Hamas leadership in the Palestinian Authority that praises such attacks and many terrorist organizations eager to strike, preventing bloodshed will be difficult.
Frogs: It's not easy being green and there are many politicians who are green with envy. Olmert must placate many Kadima MKs who wanted better ministerial positions than they ultimately will receive. The frogs in Egypt multiplied rapidly and political enemies do the same.
Lice: Most government's problems start at the head. Olmert has to treat his government's ministers with respect and delegate authority to avoid making the mistakes of his predecessors Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
Beasts: Olmert had to give in to the beastly demands of his coalition partners to be able to form his government by next Thursday's deadline. But he now must enforce coalition discipline on the mixed multitude in his cabinet. Right-wing and left-wing, religious and secular, young and pensioners must all get along for now.
Pestilence: It would be too easy to devote this category to bird flu. There are many other diseases that threaten this government, and a budget must be found to take care of them all. As soon as the government is formed, Olmert will have 45 days to pass the 2006 state budget and if he fails, new elections would be held immediately. And there is no plague Israelis want less than another election.
Boils: Every government has its warts and this one will be no exception. Its defense minister will be Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz, who spent most of his military service recovering from an injury he incurred when an armored personnel carrier fell on him. There will undoubtedly be other inappropriate appointments that will make the government look bad.
Hail: Stormy times are ahead. Olmert's plan calls for removing at least 60,000 Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria and, if Amona is any precedent, there could be - as there was in the hail of ancient Egypt - blood and fire. Olmert must start working to prevent this immediately.
Locusts: Just as locusts are known for eating everything in their path, the goal of the opposition in the Knesset is to topple the government, whether or not it is good for the country. The strange bedfellows of Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and United Arab List head Ibrahim Sarsur will join forces to bring down the government and the coalition must remain united to squash them.
Darkness: The inability to see the feelings of fellow Jews in distress. Olmert has to instigate dialogue between the government and the settlers and, as Rabbi Weiss wrote, people have to reach out to evacuated settlers and help them through the challenges that lie ahead.
Death of the firstborn: Olmert has to make every effort to prevent the first coalition partner from leaving, because history has proven that once the first party quits, a domino effect ensues that can bring a government down very quickly. Olmert must harden his heart and not let any of his coalition partners go.
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