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Rumors Fly over Labor Union Chief's Sudden Resignation

After eight years Ofer Eini suddenly steps down – normal job burnout, or sign of tension?
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 11/5/2013, 6:55 PM

Ofer Eini
Ofer Eini
Flash 90

Ofer Eini, the head of the Histadrut national labor union, caused surprise Tuesday with a sudden announcement that he plans to resign. His resignation will go into effect in 90 days.

Eini began his second term in office in mid-2012. He has nominated Avi Nissankoren, chairman of the Histadrut's Trade Union division, to take his place.

While Eini has attributed the surprise decision to a feeling of burnout, others suggested that the real reason was his clashes with the government. His resignation was also linked to the upcoming Labor party primaries.

Eini: I Dreamed Big
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Eini expressed pride at his work and explained his decision. “When I entered office in 2006, the Histadrut was in a very bad financial situation… After eight years, I’m leaving it with extra,” he declared.

“When I entered office I set several goals for myself. I have to admit that had big dreams, and if they had told me then that half of what I fantasized about would come to be, it would have been enough,” he recalled.

“It was an honor to take care of the pensions… One million workers have been added to those who get a pension… We managed to increase the minimum wage, to sign dozens of group contracts,” he said.

“The position of Histadrut head is one that takes 100% of your time, no less,” he told journalist. “Even when you sleep, you often wake up because something is bothering you.”

“In recent months, I’ve felt that I’m done, that I’m less able to give that 100%,” he admitted, adding, “I know that in Israel we aren’t used to our leaders looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, ‘wait a minute, if you can’t give 100%, be honest with your public and know when to step down.’”

After leaving office in February, “I hope I will have a lot more quality time with my family, more time to invest in my marriage and children and everything that is precious to me,” he said.

'Something is Fishy'
Eini’s emotional speech was met with skepticism. Maariv/nrg reporter Shalom Yerushalmi was among the critics.

“There’s something fishy about a public figure being appointed for a five-year term, winning overwhelming support from hundreds of thousands of workers, but leaving after one-third of his term is over – and moreover, appointing a replacement that nobody has heard of,” he accused.

He cast doubt on Eini’s purported reasons for stepping down. “Who really believes that a man like Ofer Eini is going to settle down with his pension at age 55, and go fishing every day?” he asked.

Yerushalmi promised an alternative reason: with the Labor party in the opposition, Eini found himself largely powerless against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, and decided to step down while he still had a list of achievements to boast of.

Also worth noting is that Eini’s resignation is expected to help Labor party head MK Shelly Yechimovich in the primaries, he said. Eini has supported Yechimovich’s opponent Yitzchak Herzog; with Eini leaving office, his supporters may feel free to vote Yechimovich.