(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The rolling strikes by Israel Railways conductors this week could not have come at a worse time for the Blue and White Party, less than a month before elections, now that they have Histadrut Labor Union Secretary-General Avi Nissenkorn in fifth place on their list.
The strikes have led to entire train lines being out of commission, as well as other delays and disturbances – preventing thousands of Israelis from getting to work, university or their army bases on time. Nissenkorn is currently on a leave of absence from the Histadrut, but has not resigned.
On Tuesday, it became clear that some in Blue and White saw Nissenkorn’s presence as an electoral burden.
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, fourth on the Blue and White list, called Nissenkorn problematic in a recording from an event in Rishon Lezion, broadcast on Army Radio.
A woman in the audience told Ashkenazi that she does not want Nissenkorn as finance minister.
“We are aware of this,” Ashkenazi responded. “You aren’t the first to ask. We won’t implement Histadrut policy in Blue and White. “Nissenkorn is a responsible person, he owned a business and he didn’t grow up [in unions]. He did positive things. We don’t intend for Blue and White to have a culture of unions, nor does Nissenkorn,” Ashkenazi said.
Naturally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others on the Right have jumped on the opportunity to attack Blue and White on economic-policy grounds.
“The train strike must stop immediately,” Netanyahu said. “Nissenkorn, [Blue and White leaders Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz’s finance minister, will put the whole country on strike. He will take us backwards to a Histadrut economy that will hurt citizens. We cannot let that happen.”
Netanyahu advocated for a “free economy that opens the market to competition and lowers prices for the good of the citizens.”
Likud released a video calling Lapid and Gantz “weak on the economy,” and featuring a quote from a Haaretz column by Nehemia Strassler saying: “Nissenkorn supported all the big, fat unions in the market and led to higher prices in food, imports, electricity, housing and more.”
New Right leader Naftali Bennett accused Blue and White of “hiding Nissenkorn, who is meant to be the next finance minister. They brought him as their senior economic figure, with socialist stances. Are they crazy?”
Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin also spoke out against Nissenkorn and the unions.
“They are getting into your business and deciding what to do so you have to live at their expense,” Feiglin said. “We can’t breathe here.” But he pointed out that there are Histadrut bigwigs in Likud as well, like Welfare Minister Haim Katz, who used to lead the Israel Aerospace Industries union.
Nissenkorn responded to the criticism, saying that “Netanyahu is worried about his investigations and is looking for people to blame for the abject failures of his leadership and that of Transportation Minister [Israel Katz, of Likud] in handling public transportation in Israel.
“He can blame everyone else for not buying more train cars, which led to massive crowding on the train, and that a decade after starting work on the train to Jerusalem, it still stops at Ben-Gurion Airport in the middle – but the lies won’t help him,” Nissenkorn added.
The Histadrut chief said that during his tenure, he prevented strikes on the trains and “made clear decisions in favor of the citizens of Israel,” and that he expressed this opinion about the current strike, but does not want to bring electoral politics into labor negotiations.
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