Israel's 100 Most Influential People This Jewish Year / The Gatekeepers: Ofer Eini and Company

No one would dare to take on the country's biggest unions, headed by the Histadrut, holders of the real keys to power.

Don't expect any structural changes or far-reaching economic reforms over the course of the next year - no thinking politician would open a direct front against the country's strongest unions during an election year. These unions play crucial roles in parties' primary campaigns, and essentially hold the keys to the nation - its seaports, its airports and on land, too.

This is the club where money and power meets.

The club is headed by Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini, as well as Israel Aerospace Industries union chairman Haim Katz, Ashdod Port union chairman Alon Hassan, Haifa Port union chairman Meir Turjeman, Israel Airports Authority union chairman Pinchas Idan and Israel Electric Corporation union chairman David (Miko ) Zarfati.

It was a rough year for Eini. Labor MK Eitan Cabel's vicious campaign to unseat him reminded him of many things he'd prefer to forget - his associates who are now chairmen at the tycoons' giant companies, the Tel Aviv apartment bought with Histadrut members' money and cleaned by subcontracted employees, and his failure to play a role in the 2011 social protests.

He is not the darling of the media, the Finance Ministry or the employers, as he was before the protests. Yet he's hanging on at the Histadrut.

And then there's IAI union chairman Katz, a perfect example of the Israeli union method. His power does not lie in the fact that he leads 16,000 people who all work in the same physical location, but rather that he also happens to be a Knesset member for the party in power (Likud ) and head of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. He also leads a strong faction within the Histadrut. Katz can get employees hired and fired, and he proved his political strength in 2009 when busloads of IAI workers showed up for the Likud primary vote.

Ofer Eini.
David Bachar