Eini - Moti Milrod - May 21, 2012
Histadrut head Ofer Eini. Photo by Moti Milrod
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The incumbent chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, Ofer Eini, says he will beat off the challenge of Eitan Cabel, a Labor MK and the party's former secretary general, in today's leadership election. About 500,000 eligible voters will be able to cast their ballots at 2,000 polling stations across the country.

Eini has the backing of Labor chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich, who has urged the members of her party, the political party most closely associated with the labor federation, to vote for him.

Eini has headed the Histadrut since 2006. He was the handpicked successor of Amir Peretz, now a Labor MK, but though Peretz brought Eini into the Histadrut, the former Histadrut chairman from Sderot is now endorsing Cabel. Peretz and Eini had a falling-out over efforts by Peretz's associates to split up the labor federation after Peretz vacated his seat.

Peretz has been working hard to secure support for Cabel from Arab Histadrut members. Peretz's brother-in-law Sami Shoshan holds the No. 2 spot on Cabel's ticket.

But the Eini camp says it has the support of 400 unions, and says only two will be voting for Cabel. The unions at Israel Aerospace Industries and Ben-Gurion International Airport are backing Eini, as are Histadrut members affiliated with Shas and some of those affiliated with Likud.

Cabel disputes Eini's figures, saying dozens of unions have pledged their support for him.

"Union leaders are contacting me every day and telling me 'We're with you,'" said Cabel, adding that he would surprise the well-oiled Eini machine by booting out the incumbent. "I am bringing a great deal of hope to the working public. Everyone will go behind the curtain and follow his conscience."

Cabel has been promised the votes of Histadrut members affiliated with Kadima, Meretz and Hadash, along with some from Likud.

Less than a third of the eligible voters went to the polls for the last Histadrut chairmanship election in 2007, but Eini said he expects voter turnout to be much higher this year. In addition to electing a chairman, voters today will also be able to select leaders of the Histadrut Convention and the Na'amat women's organization.

The rival camps exchanged insults yesterday, with Eini followers charging their opponents with underhand "gimmicks" and Cabel supporters accusing the incumbent of using scare tactics during his tenure as chairman.

Officials at the Eini headquarters are charging the Cabel camp with assigning staff members the task of trying to disrupt the Eini campaign.

"If Cabel would be busier winning over workers and committees ... he might have generated the image of a suitable candidate," said an Eini campaigner.

From the Cabel side came allegations that Eini was threatening Israel Aerospace Industries workers. The Cabel camp said Eini had illegally distributed ballot slips for Eini to IAI employees, and said the workers could be harmed if they reported the conduct to police.