100 Most Influential: The 'Money Club'

The vaccum in decision-making and execution has been filled by shadowy individuals who work primarily for their own benefit.

We all know who the influencers are. They’re the people everyone wants to be around; the ones who are hard to pin down for a meeting. They're the people with money or control over money, who can change your financial or social standing with one decision. Or they're the people close to those with power.

Influencers exist on an individual and on a national level. The latter include the prime minister, cabinet members and Knesset members, of course, as well as senior bureaucrats. That's how it should be in a democracy. But there's also a long list of influencers who weren't elected by anyone. When they work for good – as in the case of philanthropists, nonprofit heads, protest leaders and others who dedicate their lives to improving our society -- that's a good thing.

There's an even longer list of influencers who weren't elected, who set the nation's agenda and are doing it for their own sake. Why? Because power and influence give them trust, respect and control over others. Those who read the financial papers know some of them: The big business players, pushing government to set rules that suit their bank accounts – those who fought the Sheshinski recommendations and the economic concentration legislation; the owners of insurance companies and investment firms that decide where to put more than NIS 2 trillion in public money; advisers and middlemen who earn millions as the messengers between money and politics. And there are members of the media, regulators, military officers, industry members, mayors and high-tech entrepreneurs who have chalked up incredible successes. All are members of that "club" of people who influence our country and its citizens.

Who truly influences our economy and society? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is focusing on foreign relations, leaving internal issues to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Any other finance minister would have submitted the exact same budget Lapid submitted. The Knesset members? In practice they don’t do much. So is it the regulators and bureaucrats? Not really. The Bank of Israel hasn't initiated any reforms that would overhaul the banking sector and make credit available to those who don't have a big company or connections; the capital markets commissioner hasn't done much to oversee how the public's money is being invested. There's a huge vacuum in decision-making and execution.

That vacuum has been filled by the "money club": a rather small group of people who, via money – mostly public money – and strategic connections, has been steering Israel's economy and decision-making process. Their actions over the past 15 years are what determined how the economy works now. This year, TheMarker's annual 100 most influential is dedicated to telling you about these people and how they operate. Read closely, and maybe you'll join the list of those trying to change this system.

Reuters