The Bottom Line / Red alert
The Labor-Histadrut party will be unable to privatize banks, introduce competition to the ports and Israel Electric Corporation, implement reforms at the Airports Authority, or to pare down the public sector "because the workers' committee will object."
Amir Peretz returned to his party on Thursday. Some 10 years after Haim Ramon rescued the Labor party from the bear hug of the Histadrut labor federation, the party returns to representing the giant workers' committees, looking out for the Histadrut's many officials and espousing an outdated socioeconomic outlook that no longer exists anywhere in the Western world.
The Labor-Histadrut party will be unable to privatize banks, introduce competition to the ports and Israel Electric Corporation, implement reforms at the Airports Authority, or to pare down the public sector "because the workers' committee will object." With the Labor-Histadrut party, middle-class voters will flee from it. Let's not forget that with all the money and party apparatus, Peretz secured only three mandates in the previous elections.
We do have room for a social democratic party, like Tony Blair's New Labor in Britain, but not one with Peretz's world view. He has opposed Netanyahu's every step during the past year. He proposed an alternative economic plan in 2003 whose principle was to levy new taxes and compulsory loans on the public. Had his proposal been accepted, the economy would have stepped back into deeper recession, positive forces would have fled abroad, and unemployment would have increased. But, the larger workers' committees, the real controllers of the Histadrut, would have derived great pleasure - until the collapse.
Peretz released the Histadrut comptroller's biting report just this week, after the unification with Labor, even though it was ready two months ago. The Histadrut suffers from a series of improprieties in managing its properties, according to the report. Some of them are not even registered. Likewise there is no proper supervision of the check inventory and check transactions, even though seven checks were stolen and misused - and on and on. The comptroller notes that his predecessor's suggestions were ignored.
It is fitting to examine how Peretz managed the Histadrut over the past eight years, since there is no chance that he will suddenly change his world view. Eighteen months ago Peretz led Histadrut to the edge of an abyss. The Histadrut could not even pay salaries on time, suffered from a current deficit and an enormous cumulative deficit - which stands today at NIS 1.22 billion, and teetered at the brink of bankruptcy. The banks forced Peretz at the time to hire accountant Itzhak Swary, who imposed a recovery plan including layoffs, pay cuts, administrative cost cuts, professional union mergers and a reduction in workers councils - exactly what Peretz was incapable of implementing himself.
So, to where does the Histadrut chair want to lead us? To the poverty of North Korea? To the breadlines of Cuba? After all even the Soviet Union and East Germany sobered up from Peretz's world view.