Within hours of the announcement that the upcoming cabinet would be the largest in the country's history, Knesset custodians went to work overhauling the last cabinet's table.
"We have to hustle if we are going to get this thing ready in time... it's going to be mighty crowded round here," said one custodian. "At least the table won't cost any extra."
While the table's construction may not be billed to the 17th Knesset, the 27 ministerial posts arranged by Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to cost NIS 5 million for each minister, for a total of NIS 400m. over the next four years. The budget for ministers covers their work expenses, including newspaper subscriptions, personal assistant, security and car service. The last cabinet, which had 25 ministers, had been criticized for its size as well.
The ministers will have to jostle for more than their elbowroom at Olmert's table, said several ministers-designate, who added that they were already fighting to make their voices heard.
"There are some concerns that a cabinet of this size will be impossible to control," said one Labor MK who has been slated to become a minister. "We'll see. Maybe some will get weeded out."
Likud officials also attacked the size of the cabinet by calling it a disservice to the public.
"Kadima would have been better off following the example of the Likud government under [former prime minister Binyamin] Netanyahu who had no more than 18 ministers in his cabinet, rather than establishing an inflated and wasteful cabinet costing millions of shekels," said a Likud spokesman.
He added that the large cabinet proved that the parties in Olmert's government were more concerned with their own political well-being than that of the public.
"Twenty-eight ministers is too many," said MK Danny Yatom (Labor). "This government is too big for this country."
Officials close to Olmert were quick to defend the size of the coalition by terming it a "necessary expenditure" to assure that Kadima's goals were met.
MKs from other parties also rushed to endorse the coalition.
"A wide coalition necessitates a wide government," said MK Yuli Tamir (Labor), who has been slated for the Education Ministry. "It ensures stability."