Opinion

Help, It's Shelly

Incumbent Histadrut labor federation head Avi Nissenkorn certainly has his faults, but he’s 10 times better than his neo-Bolshevik challenger, Shelly Yacimovich.

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) during a Knesset Education Committee meeting, December 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

I know this may boomerang. I even understand that some of her fans will see this article as decisive proof that she is right and actually because of that will rush to vote for her. But those are all calculations that a journalist is not allowed to make. Everyone must write their own truth, and let the public decide.

In any case, I could not sit by quietly while MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) announced she is running for the post of chairwoman of the Histadrut labor federation. It is bad for the economy and bad for the workers.

Let there be no mistake: The present chairman, Avi Nissenkorn, is not my cup of tea. He has behaved in too many cases with aggravated extremism, for example when he extorted the government in the latest wage deals in the public sector; or when he defended the most powerful organizations in the Israeli economy, the unions of El Al pilots and port workers. But you have to choose between alternatives in life, and he is preferable over Yacimovich ten times over.

He is a man of action, formerly a lawyer in the field of labor law, served as the head of the Histadrut’s trade union branch and now heads the organization. Over the years he has accumulated enormous experience in managing negotiations with the government and employers, and he knows how to close a deal. Take for example his contribution to the rehabilitation plan for the Israel Military Industries, Ashdod Port, Israel Broadcasting Authority and Postal Authority. He understands economics and knows it is impossible to demand heaven and earth, because the economy will collapse and the first to suffer will be the workers. He also has a common language with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and president of the Manufacturers Association, Shraga Brosh. He also deserves credit for taking care of some of the weakest groups in Israeli society, those who earn minimum wage and the contract workers.

By comparison, Yacimovich is all talk. She had opportunities to take on an executive position as a minister, but she preferred to remain an MK. A minister must enter negotiations and reach compromises, and that does not suit her character. She has no experience in labor relations. However, she is very good at Facebook, Twitter and in media interviews. They fit her like a glove: populist criticism of the whole world.

Yacimovich presents herself as an idealist, but in practice she is the most calculating politician there is. She supports the big unions: Israel Electric Corporation, the ports, Israel Airports Authority, Israel Railways and the defense industries, so they will support her in the elections. These are inefficient government monopolies which are the cause of low productivity and a high cost of living, for which rank and file workers pay the price. When will they learn that it comes at their expense?

Yacimovich is a neo-Bolshevik who believes that the government needs to manage everything, as in the former Soviet Union. She is against the free market, against opening the economy up to competition from imports, against privatization, against increased efficiency measures, against anything that could bring development and progress, just like her colleague MK Dov Khenin (Joint List). The two of them wanted to nationalize the private natural gas companies, which would have put an end to any chance of ever extracting the gas from the depths of the earth, and the economy would have lost billions in revenues. She even opposed Rami Levy’s sale of “chicken for a shekel,” because of a complete ignorance of the laws of economics.

When she ran for the Labor Party leadership in 2013, she presented a completely delusional economic plan that included increasing government spending by 138 billion shekels ($37 billion) over five years, while canceling the limitations on government spending. The chairman of the Histadrut at the time, Ofer Eini, called it “total insanity.” It is also worth mentioning how MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), who recently became her ally in what was an impressive flip flop, described her: “coward,” “dictator,” “harmful to Israeli society” and “the end of us.”

On second thought, I don’t need to be so worried. Her chances of beating Nissenkorn are small. She has recently failed in so many political battles that she has become the Labor Party’s serial loser.