Forty Knesset members, or about one-third of Israel's legislators, have run up a debt of NIS 400,000 to the Knesset cafeteria.

The debts in questions are two months old or even older, and some MKs have owed the cafeteria since late 2007.

The cafeteria owners, Yaron Menashe and Oshik Ben Shitrit, recently began refusing to accept orders from 20 indebted MKs. Nor do some Knesset parties financed by the legislative house and government ministries appear to be in any hurry to pay for the snacks and meals eaten by the ministers that head them. Indeed, one ministry owes the cafeteria a total of NIS 15,000 for meals consumed by the minister and his assistants.

Now, the cafeteria owners are worried that dissolving the current Knesset on November 11 will make it more difficult to collect monies owed by MKs and political parties. Mainly, because at least some MKs will not be returning after elections. Menashe and Ben Shitrit refuse to reveal names of MKs and ministers in debt to the cafeteria.

"The payment ethic of private citizens who eat at the cafeteria is of a higher standard than government ministries, some parties and part of the MKs," the two say. "Some MKs really work us hard before they pay debts. We plan to ask the Knesset Director General to help us collect the debts owed by MKs and parties," they said.

After the elections, Menashe and Ben Shitrit plan to switch to the use of smart cards for payment at the cafeteria, which will make it easier to collect debts. The question is, if the new MKs agree to use the cards.