Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
The State of Trade Unionism in Israel 445
ITZHAK HARPAZ The State of Trade Unionism in Israel 1. Introduction Organised labour in Israel consists of several trade unions, of which the most significant and dominant is the Histadrut (‘association’ in Hebrew). Most of the present chapter concentrates on that union. Israel is perhaps one of the only states in the world which had extensive labour and trade union activities prior to its establishment in 1948. Founded in 1920, the Histadrut–General Federation of Labour (GFL) played a major role in the development of the state of Israel with responsibility for generating much of the nation’s infrastructure and economy. It assumed roles usually fulfilled by a state, and nation building was among its foremost goals. The Histadrut established economic enterprises in such areas as agriculture, industry, holding companies, transportation and banking. It also maintained social ser- vices, and cultural, educational and sports activities. At the height of its power in the 1970s it controlled about 30 per cent of the nation’s economy and work force, and about 80 per cent of the labour force (1.5 million workers) were Histadrut members. For these reasons, as well as its political influence, the Histadrut was often referred to as ‘a state within a state’. One example of its political power is the fact that almost every Histadrut chairman served as a member of Knesset (Parliament) or held a government ministerial role. Moreover, David Ben-Gurion, the Histadrut’s second chairman (1921–1935) was elected as Israel’s first Prime Minister. One of the most important...
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