Freshman Orientation Kicks Off in Knesset

The 18th Knesset's new lawmakers found various ways of calming their nerves yesterday on their first day at their new workplace. Likud MK-designate Ofir Akonis spent some time measuring the size of the rostrum. Then, there was a photo-op at the cabinet table: Akonis sat in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chair, former army spokeswoman Miri Regev (Likud) sat in Foreign Minister Tzipi's Livni's seat, and Mas'ud Gana'im (United Arab List-Ta'al) tried out the chair belonging to Pensioners Party minister Rafi Eitan.

Most of the tips Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik gave the newcomers had to do with the media. "Anybody who thinks they can say [to a reporter] 'Do me a favor, don't print that, I was just kidding' - there's no sense of humor here. There's no mercy."

As a warning, she said they could be caught on camera at any moment, but at the same time she said: "There's nothing worse for an MK than for someone to tell them, 'hey, where did you disappear to?'"

Veteran lawmaker Michael Eitan (Likud), who will serve as temporary Knesset speaker starting Tuesday, explained to the newcomers his philosophy that a plenary where all MKs were present was "a stupid Knesset," explaining that sitting and listening to all the motions was not a serious activity.

Zion Finian (Likud), another new Knesset member, said that after 40 years in politics he had stopped counting how many times he had visited the Knesset, but that from now on he could "get inside without courting a Knesset member to get an invitation."

MK-designate Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and his aide, Itamar Ben-Gvir, both Kahane supporters, said, perhaps surprisingly to some: "We came to work, not to demonstrate or make provocations."

Knesset Director General Avi Balashnikov took the new lawmakers on a tour, and promised that they would soon learn shortcuts through the long corridors of the new wing to get them to the plenum in time to vote.

Special words of warning were given to smokers: Anyone caught smoking outside the smoking room will be fined NIS 1,000. "No immunity and no discounts," he added.

The new MKs mainly listened, but when the Knesset accountant gave his lecture on their salaries, the questions began. Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) asked about the car models MKs could receive. Dr. Rachel Adato (Kadima), former deputy director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, wanted to know if she could be sued by her parliamentary aide as the aide's employer.