Harvard-educated consultant Einat Wilf is an articulate professional who is only one step away from entering the Knesset. But a seat in the parliament appeared further away than ever for Wilf on Tuesday when the five ministers in her Labor Party refused to quit the Knesset temporarily to allow her to enter.
On Monday, the Knesset approved the first reading of the so-called "mini-Norwegian law," which will allow one minister from each party in the coalition to resign from the Knesset in favor of the next name on their party's candidate list, and then return to the Knesset if they quit the cabinet. It is expected to pass its final readings next month.
The change is intended to give the coalition five additional active MKs to represent their parties in the Knesset after the appointment of 40 ministers and deputy ministers gave the coalition a disadvantage in parliamentary work.
Once the legislation passes, two Ethiopian immigrants would be able to enter the Knesset: Alali Adamso of Likud and Mazor Bayana of Shas.
Israel Beiteinu's new MK would be Kiryat Gat social worker Viktor Ifrahimov, and former MK Nisan Slomiansky would return to the Knesset with Habayit Hayehudi.
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz has agreed to quit the Knesset for Slomiansky. Shas and Israel Beiteinu sources said party chairmen Eli Yishai and Avigdor Lieberman would make one of their ministers quit, most likely Meshulam Nahari of Shas and either Yitzhak Aharonovich or Sofa Landver of Israel Beiteinu.
In the Likud, ministers have already started pointing fingers at each other about who should resign for Adamso. One minister suggested Minister-without-Portfolio Michael Eitan, because he chairs the Knesset lobby for Ethiopian immigrants.
Eitan said he did not want to give up the title of the Knesset's most veteran MK, and that he runs his ministry out of his office in the Knesset. He suggested that the 15 Likud ministers take turns, each quitting for two months.
But the biggest battle is expected to take place in Labor, whose ministers opposed the bill in the cabinet. Spokesmen for ministers Ehud Barak, Isaac Herzog, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Shalom Simhon and Avishay Braverman all said emphatically that their bosses would remain in the Knesset.
"There isn't even an itty bitty, minuscule, microscopic chance that Shalom will quit the Knesset," Simhon's spokeswoman said.
Herzog's associates said that as Labor's No. 2 man, he had an obligation to remain in the Knesset, because he was one step away from being party leader. Ben-Eliezer's spokesman said rumors that his Knesset days were numbered were "nonsense."
Barak's spokeswoman responded that "contrary to popular belief, Barak is not a dictator, and he still has plenty of time to decide how to handle the situation in a democratic way."
Wilf told The Jerusalem Post from abroad that "at this point, I haven't heard from anyone directly that they are not willing to resign. It's too early. We will wait for the bill to pass its third reading. It's irrelevant until then."
Kadima officials called the bill "a waste of taxpayers' money that brings shame to the Knesset." Former Kadima ministers mocked Likud and Labor ministers for refusing to quit the Knesset only months after they accused Kadima of being a party that could not survive without ministerial perks.
"Watch how none of the ministers will be willing to quit," said Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit, who was the longest-serving minister until two months ago. "This is going to be really funny to watch."