Analysis: At the Knesset, from ceremony to serious stuff

Before the suicide bomber struck in Tel Aviv, the main concern of the 120 MKs who came to the Knesset to be sworn in on Monday afternoon was how to get lunch in a parliament building that had been emptied of food for Pessah. Red carpets were rolled out, flowered lapels were distributed and trumpets were readied. But once word got out about the attack, all the pomp and circumstance seemed out of place and the new MKs were left wondering why the ring of intense security around the Knesset could not have been sent instead to the old Tel Aviv bus station. The attack was a painful reminder that when all the festivities are over and done, there is a country to run and there are many challenges ahead. For the past six months, the politicians have focused on political horse-trading, but now it's time for them to leave the stables and get to work. Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opened Kadima's faction meeting by suggesting that the teenager who blew himself up in Tel Aviv purposely deliberately carried out the attack on inauguration day to spoil it. But chances are the terrorist had no idea whether Israel Beiteinu's Stas Meseznikov would become an MK today or yesterday. "We planned to open the first sessions of the Knesset and the faction in a better mood," Olmert told the Kadima MKs in a giant understatement. The attack will serve as Olmert's first test since the election. When "Sergeant" Olmert told the Kadima MKs that Israel "would know how to respond" to the attack, it sounded less convincing than when the same words were uttered by a general and war hero like Sharon. Sharon might have done the dirty work of forming Kadima that ensured Olmert's election but he left behind the unenviable tasks of handling a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, a nuclear Iran and an army of suicide bombers ready to strike. With such tasks ahead, the coalition talks at Ramat Gan's Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel that continue to move at a turtle's pace have become more and more extraneous. How can politicians talk about blowing up the negotiations over insignificant issues when terrorists are blowing themselves up at felafel stands? Just as the Knesset shifted from ceremony to serious stuff at a moment's notice on Monday, the country is ready for its newly elected officials to stop celebrating and start governing. They won their free lunches and now it is time for them to start earning them.