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The Histadrut State Has an Outlet to the Sea

by Dr. Y. H. Yevin - Sulam No. 21, Tevet 5711.

(Translated by Zev Golan)

Our country has been done dreadful harm, because of the existence of two "states" in Israel; one being the Histadrut State and the other the State of Israel itself. Especially lamentable is the fact that the very rulers of State no. 1 are the heads of the "rival state," namely State no. 2.  This duality secures them unlimited opportunities for expanding and further empowering their protégée (State no. 1), at the expense of their "stepchild," State no. 2.
An outsider would be hard put to discover the paths and channels through which moneys, or money-equivalents in the form of assets, as well as priorities and benefits make their way from the jurisdiction of State no. 2 (State of Israel) to that of State no. 1 (the Histadrut State), rather than moving in the opposite direction.

I will first address an issue that touches on one of the most cherished principles of Israel's evolutionary path: the development of industry. Such development must be viewed through the prism of the above mentioned duality, in which there exist two parallel states, and in which the leaders of State no. 1 exercise unrestricted control over State no. 2. The issue to be addressed is: the rival enterprise; a competitor.  To illustrate the problem: let us assume that a tycoon arrives in Israel and tells the government (that is to say, the Government of the State of Israel, itself the leadership of the Histadrut State) he wishes to set up a large glass-works factory in this country. He is prepared to invest a great deal of money. His plant will provide employment for hundreds, possibly thousands of employees, thereby assisting both in Israel's development and in the absorption of immigration.  All of which is fine and dandy. But there is a catch. The financier's new glass factory will actually constitute a "rival enterprise!" It will be in competition with Phoenicia, the glass factory of the Histadrut, or, as we shall call it for present purposes, the Histadrut State.  So here we have a government official of the State of Israel, obviously also one of the leaders of the Histadrut State, faced with a proposal that means competition! What is he to do?  A foreign financier wishes to invest money in this country. Our official is certainly not going to say: "I'm very sorry, but we already have our own glass factory, belonging to the Histadrut, and we cannot permit anyone in the State to compete with it." He won‚t say that. Instead, he will stonewall the foreign visitor: "Distinguished sir, your proposal involves importing raw materials, necessitating the investment of foreign currency, which is in short supply here."  Or: "Kind sir, your proposal does not appear sufficiently practical." Or, at best: "We will make it our business to look into this again. We are extremely busy just now, but once we can find the time, we will certainly examine your proposal." Of course, we can hardly be expected to know in advance the most appropriate burial service for the proposal, but buried it will be, let no one doubt it.

Some weeks ago, the press carried a news item to the effect that the establishment of the new "Shimshon" cement factory (alongside the old "Nesher" factory) had encountered a serious delay. The delaying factor was Sollel Boneh.

So here we have a (private) company that was about to finish building its plant; whereupon Israel would have a plentiful supply of cement. Until someone remembered that there was an old cement factory already in existence in Israel, namely the Histadrut-owned "Nesher." This fact automatically relegates Shimshon to the status of a rival enterprise.  And make no mistake: wherever a plant competing with an enterprise of the Histadrut State is under contemplation, is where all considerations about saving foreign currency, or the need to have the basic materials for construction manufactured in Israel, end. No such enterprise will come into being, for now.  Not for now. Unless some Shimshon consents to grant the Histadrut State 51 percent of its shares.

And now for another example: back in the early days of the State of Israel, before Jewish financiers in America first got their outstretched hands burned by the hot coals of the Histadrut State, they brought before the Israeli government a proposal for setting up, in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, an exemplary transportation system. There would be no queues, and people would not be herded like animals into overcrowded carriages. The proposal was shelved, for obvious reasons:  the Histadrut State would brook no competition to its own subordinate transportation groups, the Dan and Egged bus companies.  Inscrutable and unfathomable are the ways and means, fair and foul, and the stratagems and the devices being pursued by the rulers of the "two states" in order to edge out any interference by private initiative, on the one hand, and have the Histadrut State expand by constantly "annexing" new areas and new subjects on the other. To achieve their ends, Histadrut leaders surely need not come out openly and declare: "We are opposed to private capital."  On the contrary, there is nothing to stop them singing the praises of and swearing their undying affection for the entrepreneur class, day and night.  But the leaders of the Histadrut State occupy such important positions in the State of Israel - at the very apex of the political pyramid - and they have taken control of such basically essential economic sectors and walks of life, that even simple administrative regulations, seemingly having no bearing on any parley between private capital and Histadrut capital, are liable to result in an even further shrinkage of the private market, paralleled by a further expansion of "State no. 1."

And now we come to the most drastic act performed in this saga of the existence of the "two states" and the control exerted by State no. 1, namely the Histadrut State, over key positions in the State of Israel, while it incessantly pursues further and evidently limitless expansion, paralleled by the likewise incessant further shrinkage and diminution of the authority of the State of Israel.

I refer to the Haifa Port.

The Haifa Port is, without doubt, one of the most significant political, economic and strategic assets of the State of Israel.  Yet it is currently becoming apparent that the Haifa Port is not in the hands of the State of Israel at all. Rather, it is held by the Histadrut State.  The Ma‚ariv daily newspaper of 15 Heshvan  [5711, or 22 October 1950] carries the following report:

"Sollel Boneh has various complaints to make against the Haifa Laborers Council. For example, port workers are demanding higher than generally accepted wages. This is causing high costs and waste. The port workers do not permit new men to come and work at the port, and this closed-shop policy is resulting in a severe shortage of skilled workers at the port, hindering work expansion and causing faults and delays in the work of loading and unloading. Sollel Boneh also complains that, on more than one occasion, port workers have been caught red-handed "taking care" of new immigrants‚ belongings and other merchandise. Yet the cooperatives, after firing them, were forced to reinstate these workers, at the demand of the trade unions. The Sollel Boneh management admits that all is not well∑especially as far as concerns accusations of the smuggling of essential commodities, the disappearance of the belongings of new immigrants on route to their encampments and the siphoning off of building materials and timber. Another accusation that has been leveled at the port workers concerns certain types of merchandise which reach the port, fail to be taken out (for whatever reason), and are subsequently sold at one-third or less of their value.

"After hearing the parties, the Histadrut resolved to set up a commission of inquiry."

The very facts seem quite astonishing:  How did the Haifa Port pass from the jurisdiction of the State of Israel to that of the Histadrut?  If we are not mistaken, this must be the only case in history in which a nation‚s harbor city, the country‚s most important port, is found to be under the purview of a trade union, owned by a "Labor Council." The sole precedent for such a state of affairs is to be found in the chronicles of the Russian Revolution, in the period from February 1917 to October of that year, when the ports of Petrograd or Odessa may (I am not sure about this) have been controlled - and even then, only for a short time, and in the throes of the Revolution - by a workers‚ "soviet."

Yet the above excerpts indicate that the workers, who stand accused of "taking care" of new immigrants‚ belongings, are to be brought, not before a court of law of the State of Israel, but before a Histadrut tribunal.  One may well suppose that unlawful acts took place within the precincts of the Haifa Port, and they, too, are being investigated, not by any investigative organ of the State of Israel, but by a Histadrut commission of inquiry.

The State of Israel‚s most important asset, namely Haifa Port, has not only been divorced from its economic ownership, it has in fact been removed from both its jurisdiction and its very sovereignty; in favor of those of the Histadrut State. Accordingly, the issue of the arrangements, or the irregularities, at Haifa Port, are defined as the internal affairs of the Histadrut State, where a "foreign entity," such as the State of Israel, may not intrude.

There are further conclusions to be drawn from this fact of the "annexation" of Haifa Port, and they too, are quite interesting. Let us assume that elections were to take place in the State of Israel and the majority of the population were to vote against the rule of the Histadrut in the State of Israel.

The Israeli people has thus firmly resolved to pluck the Histadrut leaders out of their entrenched positions of authority in the State, and to establish, in their stead, a non-Histadrut form of regime.  How will the Histadrut State respond to this challenge?  With the utmost simplicity. It need not even declare a general strike throughout Israel in protest against the "rise of reactionary forces."  It will simply shut down that essential asset lying within its domain, namely Haifa Port, thereby imposing a blockade on the State of Israel and its "anti labor" policies. There will be no entering or exiting the country. Not one ton of flour will reach the "reactionary" State of Israel, whose maritime outlet is the property of the Histadrut State.

As for the private sector, wherever you find it healthy and flourishing, there, too, you find its weak point (although, if the truth be told, this weakness is itself a sign of health). The private sector cannot maintain itself as a bankrupt economy. Its existence is contingent on its owners making profits ˜ at least at a minimal subsistence level.  Give the citrus-growing sector four to five years of deficits, and the orchards of Hadera and Petah Tiqva and Rehovot and Rishon-LeZion will be up for sale. And the Jewish National Fund, namely the Histadrut, will "redeem" them, converting the lands into kibbutz (collective) farms. Because the Histadrut is not afraid of deficits! It has, on the contrary, a positive affinity for deficits. Indeed, the Histadrut and the deficit may be said to be a match made in Heaven, like bride and groom. The Histadrut economy is, for the most part, a deficit ridden economy.  But one could easily reverse the formula: a deficit-ridden economy is, by its very nature, also a Histadrut economy. Because a deficit-ridden economy cannot exist except within the confines of the Histadrut; which is to say, within the confines of an entity that is always capable of covering all its deficits out of charitable; namely appeals and fund-raising - sources. Thus the deficit may be said to be a favorite of the Histadrut's: where an industry has a deficit, that deficit serves as a guarantee, a sort of insurance, that the industry cannot break free from the Histadrut bear-hug. The converse also holds true - where an enterprise earns profits, its owners free themselves from dependency on the Histadrut, ceasing to enshrine its "values."

To sum up the situation: the Histadrut State has up its sleeve plenty more major options for expanding at the expense of the State of Israel.

And anyone not desirous of seeing the State of Israel sink into oblivion, but who, rather, desires it prosperous, and expanding its territory to the promised borders ˆ is bound to arrive at the same conclusion as was reached, at one time, by Ze'ev Jabotinsky:  Yes, break it. The Histadrut State must be liquidated, so that the State of Israel may survive. This reactionary force must be broken up, since it has a stranglehold on the State of Israel and the nation of Israel, cutting off all possibility of growth and life.

We should not tolerate the existence of the Histadrut State as a kind of Beast of the Apocalypse, which gobbles up and swallows everything, but leaves no trace of what it has devoured. The working public will not suffer from its demise. What does an employee care if the foundry in which he works belongs to Sollel Boneh or to the State, or to a private industrialist? He has not been enriched by the fabulous wealth of the Histadrut State, nor will he suffer deprivation if it is cut down to size. The Histadrut State has derived the entirety of its assets from charity, meaning from the pockets of the people; and this wealth ought properly to return to the people.

And any national liberation movement that arises in Israel should inscribe on its banner, together with the promises made to the Israelites in the Biblical Covenant, also this "unpopular" wish: to put an end to this absurd life-form, which spells death for our nation, the "two states" in Israel, the Histadrut State, in order that a sovereign Israel may be reborn.