The Labor Party and Histadrut hinder progress - opinion

As the only national labor union in Israel, the Histadrut is able to promote its socialist political agenda, and has consistently opposed efforts to modernize the country.

 HISTADRUT CHAIRMAN Arnon Ben Dor speaks at a news conference at the Finance Ministry earlier this month. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
HISTADRUT CHAIRMAN Arnon Ben Dor speaks at a news conference at the Finance Ministry earlier this month.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The Histadrut controls many aspects of the government and the state. It represents about 80% of all government employees, and large sections of workers throughout the economy. It claims about 80,000 members in the State Employees Union, about a quarter of a million members in the Histadrut HaMaof, which includes government institutions, HMO Clalit, banks, insurance and investment companies, and claims 800,000 members in all of its unions.

The Histadrut once owned and controlled many companies, but was forced to sell-off many of them when the government moved from a socialist to a greater free enterprise economy. The Histadrut invested the profits from these sales, but the details are not public. For a while they used pension and insurance funds, but these were so badly managed that they went bankrupt. This scandal has never been investigated. That’s not surprising since the investigators would be union members.

An example of the Histadrut’s questionable finances is the Zim Shipping Services which was owned by the Histadrut and the government until it was privatized in 2004. It was bought by Sammy and Yuli Ofer’s Israel Corporation for only $100 million which drew criticism because of the low price. No one knows what side deals were made; the Histadrut has a close connection with the Israel Corporation.

The Histadrut controls large parts of Israel’s basic infrastructure, its educational system, and its military-industrial complex. Although less powerful than it was, the Histadrut and its political arm, the Labor Party, which symbolizes the social-cultural left, still has significant influence in Israeli society and politics. The kibbutz movement which began in 1909 and now claims 270 collectives in addition to moshavim, is an important Zionist symbol of settling the Land of Israel. For leftists, however, this symbol is controversial.

As the only national labor union in Israel, the Histadrut is able to promote its socialist political agenda. It explains, for example, why government offices are often inefficient. Getting a job requires union membership, not necessarily competence; it’s mandatory, not voluntary. The Histadrut has consistently opposed efforts to modernize the country, for example in making our ports and railway system more efficient.

Educational institutions, especially those of higher learning – including Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and University of Haifa – and think-tanks associated with them are controlled by leftists and the Labor Party and via Israel’s teacher’s union and teacher education, are controlled by the Histadrut.

Histadrut labor federation chairman Arnon Bar-David addresses a press conference, March 10, 2020  (credit: HISTADRUT SPOKESPERSON)Histadrut labor federation chairman Arnon Bar-David addresses a press conference, March 10, 2020 (credit: HISTADRUT SPOKESPERSON)

Why should someone who wants to work be forced to join the Histadrut? Why in fact do we need the Histadrut at all?

Many in the Defense Ministry and civilian administration are leftists. This explains why they go out of their way to destroy tents of kids on hilltops, homes of Jews in settlements, the yeshiva in Homesh, etc. It explains why Arabs from Palestinian Authority areas A and B are allowed to build in Area C (under Israeli rule) and why Bedouin are building illegally throughout Israel.

As part of the coalition government, the Labor Party protects the Histadrut and promotes its socialist agenda, allied with the extreme leftist Meretz Party, despite a lack of popular support. In addition, most of Israel’s media support the Labor Party’s leftist agenda.

It’s surprising, therefore, that despite its economic and political power, there has been no serious examination or critical analysis of the Labor Party and the Histadrut. Why is this neglected?

Israeli workers, like all Israelis, should be respected and protected against abuse, but the Labor Party’s support for a Palestinian state and its opposition to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria jeopardizes the State of Israel and undermines Zionism.

The author is a PhD historian and journalist in Israel.