Yacimovich vs. Hassan: Hopefully, a Twist in the Plot

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Six hundred Ashdod Port workers recently joined the Labor Party for the purpose of voting against the party’s chairwoman, MK Shelly Yacimovich in the upcoming elections for the party’s leadership. That is how Ashdod Workers Committee Chairman Alon Hassan takes revenge.

The affair started in October 2011, when Sharon Shpurer published an in-depth report on Hassan’s doings. It turned out that in addition to his high salary, wide-ranging benefits, and control of the port, the workers committee chairman and his family were selling millions of shekels worth of goods and services to the port. Is there any greater chutzpah? Is there a more infuriating form of corruption?

The report made waves. Everyone was talking about it. But Yacimovich did not say a word. She is known as a major supporter of the major labor unions, including that of Hassan. He supported her in her fight for the leadership of the party and she always unconditionally came out in favor of the excessive salaries at the port, the nepotism, the low efficiency and the wildcat strikes that delayed the unloading of ships, caused major damage to imports and exports and led to higher prices of all the products in the economy. That is Yacimovich’s socialism − more for the stronger and let the weaker pay.

Only recently, when the affair broke on Channel 2, Yacimovich could no longer keep silent. The pressures on her were too great. And so she launched a frontal assault on Hassan and demanded that he step down. Suddenly, she saw the light. Suddenly she took a moral stand, that Hassan had moved from being an asset to the port to being a burden. Hassan had outlived his usefulness. One of the uglier betrayals we have seen in these parts. It is precisely that sort of meanness that came out in her conduct in refusing to allow Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar to have her vote “offset” − a parliamentary practice in which a party member agrees not to vote when a member of an opposing party cannot be present, thus leaving the balance of votes intact − even though Elharar was on maternity leave and is confined to a wheelchair. Is there anything more inhumane and anti-feminist than that? If Netanyahu would do the same, Yacimovich would eat him alive and describe him as an evil, capitalist, chauvinist pig who oppresses women and infringes on their basic right to give birth.

But don’t think for a moment that the Hassan affair changed anything in Yacimovich’s views of government ownership over business management. She still opposes the privatization of the ports. From her point of view, let the port union keep on torturing the importers and the exporters, choking the economy and raising the cost of products. Just without Hassan.

The truth is that even the state has thrown up its hands when it comes to the ports’ workers’ committees. It is proposing that a private port be established to compete with the government ports. But according to the reform agreement signed with the port workers in 2005, for which the workers were paid billions, the ports’ stock should already be traded on the stock exchange and we should have seen them preparing for full privatization in 2020. After all, all the major ports in Western countries are privately owned, so they can compete efficiently. But the stock offering has not begun and no one is even talking about privatizing the ports.

Instead, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Finance Minister Yair Lapid are proposing a very expensive detour − a private port. That is how they flee from the main problem − that the ports’ workers’ committees have too much power. Private ports have already been established in Ashdod and Haifa, but the port workers pressured the government until the latter gave in and let the government ports operate them. And so another private port should not be built through the government’s company, Israel Ports. It will end up the same way.

The right solution is to privatize the ports, because the government is not built to manage businesses. Look what happened to the subway in Tel Aviv, which is managed by a government company. Delays of years and billions over budget. But Yacimovich is against privatization in every case and every way.

So perhaps, in a crazy plot twist, Hassan will be the one to toss the ball back and it will be the chairwoman who steps down. That will allow the people who really hold a social-democratic worldview to take the helm of the Labor Party for the good of the party and the whole country.

Containers at Ashdod Port. The ports were among the most profitable government companies in 2013.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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