Gas Tycoons, Netanyahu Top TheMarker's List of 100 Most Influential Israelis

Tycoons are the squeezing the government, and regulators can’t stand up to the pressure.

Tomer Appelbaum

Natural gas machers and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been the most significant forces in the Israeli economy over the past year, according to TheMarker’s 15th annual list of the 100 most influential people in the economy.

Second place is shared by energy baron Yitzhak Tshuva and top executives of Houston-based Noble Energy, who are fighting the government’s efforts to curb their natural gas monopoly. Yuval Steinitz, Netanyahu loyalist and energy minister, is in third place alongside his officials.

In fourth place are regulators, though they were badly hamstrung in the past year. This category includes Orit Farkash-Hacohen, the independent-minded chairwoman of the Electricity Authority who swayed public opinion against the gas gang's compromise with the government. But she's likely to be leaving her position soon.

In fifth place are various and sundry rights groups. Sixth is Dror Strum, former antitrust commissioner and current chairman of a committee about to publish recommendations on bank reforms.

Seventh are defense officials, led by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the Israel Defense Forces' chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot. The chief once again prevailed in the perennial battle with the Finance Ministry over the gargantuan defense budget.

Eighth is Dorit Salinger, the Finance Ministry's capital markets commissioner who has carried out reforms during her tenure with more on the way. Ninth is Judge Chaled Kabub of the Tel Aviv District Court, whose courageous and creative rulings have influenced the Israeli business world.

Rounding out the top 10 is Avigdor Yitzhaki, chairman of the housing directorate at the Finance Ministry, and his advisers. They're in charge of increasing the housing supply to keep rising prices in check.

As always, this year's list celebrates the people whose actions in politics, defense, the economy and public administration have shaped Israelis' day-to-day lives.

The 2015 incarnation focuses on the Israeli reality as it’s reflected in the link  between the political system and interest groups, movers and shakers, voters in party primaries, and people with influence on and access to the media. This forces politicians to focus on these machine interests first; the politicians thus lack the energy, money and time to take care of the people.

The prime minister is trying to control every possible position of power, no matter what the public price. In the meantime, tycoons are the squeezing the government, and regulators can’t stand up to the pressure. Israel isn’t an oligarchy headed by a dictator, but the trend is worrying.

Still, there are people out there struggling to shape the economy for the greater good. They need the help of each of us if they are to succeed.