TEL AVIV, Israel — Among those who helped propel Benjamin Netanyahu into his fourth term as Israeli prime minister last week is a dual-hatted Likud lawmaker and longtime labor union boss from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Little known abroad, Haim Katz is a household name in Israeli politics, with influence over nearly 100,000 employees and pensioners of IAI and their families who are card-carrying members of Netanyahu’s right-of-center Likud Party.
Netanyahu’s come-from-behind sweep of 30 seats in March 17 elections — a six-seat lead over opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog — was due, in part, to union bosses like Katz.
He forgave Netanyahu for an insulting campaign video that appeared to conflate labor unions with Hamas terrorists as special interest groups harmed by his government’s hardline policies. Netanyahu apologized to Katz and other union chiefs, disavowing all knowledge of his role in the failed attempt at campaign humor.
“We talked more than once in those days [before the election] … He apologized. He appreciates the important support of the workers and pensioners over all of Israel,” Katz said.