Powerful Union Leader Joins Labor Party

Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn’s move seen as bolstering his position in union, not as prelude to run for Labor leadership.

Tomer Appelbaum

The chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, Avi Nissenkorn, formally joined the Labor party on Tuesday. Although not a formal member up to now, Nissenkorn is one of the more powerful personalities in the party, with a significant following. Like party leader Isaac Herzog and MK Shelly Yacimovich, he controls one of the larger contingents of delegates at the party’s central committee. Last November, as part of an understanding reached between the three of them, dozens of additional Nissenkorn supporters were added to this party organ.

Nissenkorn’s official enlisting in the party was seen mainly as a symbolic gesture, intended to strengthen links between the party and the labor union, contributing to the image of the latter as a defender of workers’ rights. Nissenekorn is expected to try and further bolster his standing ahead of a future competition for head of the union, in which he will most likely contend with other Labor party members. There are assessments that former Histadrut chief Amir Peretz or Yacimovich will vie for the job, although Yacimovich denied this earlier in the week. Labor party officials estimate that at this point Nissenkorn is not eying the party’s top spot.

At a meeting he held with Herzog before signing up as a party member, Nissenkorn said: “I’m happy and proud to be joining the Labor party. Israel’s current social reality requires the mobilization of all public and political forces in the struggle against growing poverty and the deep gaps prevailing in our society.”

Herzog welcomed the move, declaring that “Avi is an important and ground-breaking social leader who is implementing historic changes in the lives of weaker segments of society, of people with disabilities and of pensioners, as well as leading Israel’s workers to unprecedented accomplishments.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich also praised Nissenkorn for his decision. “His decision to join at this time, when the party is weak, attests to his courage and true identification with the party’s path. There is no reason to worry about openly declaring the link between the party and the Histadrut. Across the world social democratic parties are closely associated with trade unions, and the struggle for organized labor that strengthens workers is one of the cornerstones of the Labor movement.”

MK Amir Peretz also welcomed Nissenkorn to the party. “Undoubtedly, the effort to increase our ranks is the most important effort in the construction of a political, security, social and economic alternative [to the present government]”, he said.

MK Itzik Shmuli, considered one of Nissenkorn’s close associates within the party, explained that “the Histadrut is flesh of our party’s flesh, and the entry into our ranks of a social leader such as Nissenkorn should be welcomed. Over the last few months he has demonstrated exceptional sensitivity and concern, as leader of the Histadrut, for truly weaker segments of society. This includes people earning a minimum wage, people with disabilities, contract workers and others. I believe that with combined forces we can instigate dramatic changes in the near future.”