All in Favor / Knesset Cuts Borekas Budget

The country's MKs, who have already been hit with two food-related crises this week, in the form of the closure of the cafeteria in the wake of a Lysteria scare and a cat wandering through the dining room, have suffered yet another blow: The director general of the Knesset, Avi Balashnikov, recently announced the Knesset would no longer foot the bill for the borekasim, the rugelach, the coffee, tea and cold beverages served in caucus meetings.

In addition, the Knesset will no longer pay for photocopying, paper, pads, pens, pencils, printer toner or fax supplies. The annual budget for such purchases had been NIS 380,000.

Some parties face massive debts and will now be hard put to pay for their office supplies.

The decision to stop paying for the refreshments served at meetings of party MKs came after Knesset Legal Adviser Nurit Elstein ruled the practice illegal because these expenses are already included in the NIS 57.3 million that each faction receives from the Knesset for each MK.

Each faction also receives an additional monthly sum of NIS 57.3 million, regardless of the size of its Knesset representation.

It does not end there: A few years ago, the parties pushed for, and received, NIS 6 million annually to underwrite the salaries of their caucus managers and their aides.

The factions were not satisfied with this, and also managed to get the Knesset to pony up for their hospitality and office supplies expenses.

When Elstein announced the refreshments allocations were illegal, the factions began to get clever. The party whips, led by MK Moshe Sharoni of the Pensioners Party (who was dismissed from the post a week ago), sponsored a bill that would require the Knesset to pay the factions' food and drink bills.

MK Michael Eitan (Likud), who in 1994 sponsored a bill to increase by 33 percent the state's stake in faction funding, began battling against the bill, which came to be known as the "refreshments law." He met with the whips, and some withdrew their support for it: Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), Yakov Margi (Shas), Sharoni and Labor whip Yoram Marciano.

With the collapse of support for the bill, the Knesset's continued funding of the factions' refreshments was rendered illegal, leading to Balashnikov's directove.

The parties are now complaining that they don't have money to pay for refreshments.

This begs the question of whether the MKs are capable of taking the right decisions during faction meetings, in the absence of borekasim.