Asher Yadlin, Disgraced Labor Leader in 1970s, Passes Away

Yadlin was convicted of bribery in scandal that rocked party leadership before losing election to Likud for first time.

Asher Yadlin
Daniel Rosenblum

Asher Yadlin, one of the leading members of the Labor Party and the Histadrut labor federation, and one of Israel’s leading politicians in the 1970s, died over the weekend at the age of 93. Yadlin fell from greatness after becoming involved in corruption and serving a jail sentence.

Yadlin was born in 1923 in Rishon Letzion, studied at the Gymnasia Herzliya high school in Tel Aviv, was active in the Mahanot Haolim youth movement and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Hamadia. In his youth he joined the Mapai party (forerunner of the Labor Party) and became part of the organization’s leadership.

His marriage to Dalia Golomb, the daughter Eliyahu Golomb, commander of the Haganah (the pre-state underground) and the niece of Moshe Sharett – who was to become Israel’s first foreign minister and second prime minister – provided him an entrée into one of the country’s most distinguished families. “Those days in the Golomb home shaped my life – the best people were educated in that home, and it was the source of inspiration,” he was to write later.

In 1966 he was appointed secretary of the Histadrut’s holding company Hevrat Haovdim (“Society of Workers”), and in 1972 became chairman and treasurer of Clalit, Israel’s largest health maintenance organization.

But in 1976, after his appointment as governor of the Bank of Israel was approved, he was arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes in real estate deals involving the HMO’s assets. Yadlin confessed to receiving some of the money, but claimed that he didn’t put it in his own pocket but transferred it to the party’s coffers. In 1977 he was convicted of bribery and sent to prison, where he remained until 1981. While in prison he published his book, “Testimony”(in Hebrew).

His conviction and imprisonment, which became known as the “Yadlin Affair,” dealt a harsh blow to the image of the Labor Party and the Histadrut, and were among several corruption scandals in which senior Mapai officials were involved. The scandals contributed to the defeat of Labor, which was seen as being bloated and corrupt, and to the government upheaval in 1977, when Likud came to power for the first time.

After his imprisonment Yadlin divorced his wife Dalia and married attorney Talia Livni, whom he also later divorced. He is survived by his son, Prof. Omri Yadlin, and grandchildren. Yadlin donated his body to science and there will be no funeral.