Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Av 5761 - August 15, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Observations: For the Workers -- or For the Party?

by M. Halevy

While the apparent scandal surrounding the use of NPOs in the elections campaign of Ehud Barak in 1999 is being hushed up by the Establishment, which is relying on the public's short recall, Gidi Weitz, a reporter for the Jerusalem weekly, Kol Ha'ir who shed a lot of light on the NPO scandal, has exposed another peculiar episode involving the exploitation of Histadrut funds for political ends.

Writes Weitz: "Perhaps some people still recall how at the end of 1994 Chaim Ramon and Amir Peretz pledged to stop the corruption plaguing the Histadrut. Although the highly vocal partnership managed to blast Chaim Haberfeld from his position as head of the Histadrut, it seems that nothing much has changed in terms of the level of motives. Recent information on Peretz' activities and the ties he forged between the Histadrut and the Am Echad Party could lead to a new police investigation in the near future."

Weitz writes that in 1998, an organization called Association for the Advancement of Wage Workers in Israel was set up. It was registered as an organization that provides consulting services in the areas of public battles, strikes, etc. for workers' committees from all economic sectors across the country. Included among the stated goals: the advancement of the handicapped in Israel.

Another of the secondary goals mentioned was assisting Amir Peretz' party, Am Echad, with the assumption that the party would advance issues the organization supports. During the 1998-99 fiscal years the association was funded by the Histadrut, then headed by Peretz, with a budget of some NIS two million (about $500,000). Organization members claimed they deserved these funds due to their connections with Chaim Katz's Oz faction, currently number two in Amir Peretz' Knesset faction, Am Echad. The documents uncovered show that a portion of the money designated for that faction was used to fund Peretz' activity in Am Echad. One hundred and fifty thousand shekels were transferred to the party and another NIS 130,000 were used to pay membership fees for 4,323 workers registered as Am Echad members.

Weitz writes, "To explain this large-scale funding initiative, the organization said assistance was given to thousands of workers facing financial difficulties. In light of the fact that these membership fees come to NIS 30 ($7) per worker, this excuse sounds somewhat unlikely. In fact Histadrut funds were used as a political tool to recruit thousands of voters to the Histadrut chairman's party.

"During the recent elections, repeated mention was made of the pressure Am Echad brought on workers to help the party pass the minimum percentage requirement for entering the Knesset. Previous exposes on these pages have also revealed the manner in which the New Life for the Histadrut Association funded some of Chaim Ramon's political associates even after he stepped down from his seat as Histadrut chairman. This affair is now in advanced stages of investigation."

All of these incidents together form a clear and disturbing picture: Histadrut funds are transferred freely and are allocated for various undesirable purposes.

In response, the Association for the Advancement of Wage Workers in Israel counters that it received funds designated as aid to the Histadrut's Oz faction. The transfer of funds to Peretz' party has remained a mystery, shrouded in vague explanations about Am Echad's tight connection to workers. Despite being asked about specific documents held by Kol Ha'ir, the Histadrut spokesman was unable to locate any documentation in the treasurer's office for these transfers of funds."

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