18 wealthiest families earn 32% of Israel's revenues

By Ora Coren and Lilach Weissman, Haaretz Correspondents

The income of the 18 wealthiest families in Israel is equivalent to 77 percent of Israel's national budget, which is NIS 256 billion a year, and constitutes 32 percent of the country's revenues, according to a survey conducted by the Business Data Israel company published Monday.

The BDI index does not measure wealth per se, but influence over Israelis' lives. Nor does it factor in Israeli companies operating outside the country.

According to the index, Nochi Dankner, the controlling shareholder of the IDB group is the most powerful businessman in Israel.

The Labor party responded to the statistics, saying they were proof Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, both former finance ministers, parcelled the state off to cronies during their pushes for privatization.

"It's no coincidence that of the 18 families, at least seven [including Dankner] are considered Olmert's close friends," the party said in a statement.

"The connection between wealth and power makes it hard to have equal opportunities, and threatens Israeli society," Labor representatives said.

The most powerful families include the Dankners; Sami and Yuli Ofer; Shari Arison; Izzy and Dedi Borovich; Zadik Bino; Yair Hamburger; Avi Wertheim; Stef Wertheimer; Zohar, Yehuda and Roy Zisapel; Lev Leviev; Mickey Federmann; Eliezer Fishman; Jacob Shachar; Israel Kass; Ofra Strauss; Reuven Shmeltzer; and Yitzhak Tshuv.

The 500 strongest companies made combined revenues of NIS 620 billion a year, BDI says, and have more than 150,000 employees.

Nochi Dankner owns 15.1% of the revenues of the 500 leading companies. The Ofers own 13.7 percent of the revenue; Saban, 9.1 percent; Wiessman, 8.9 percent; Arison, 8.7 percent; Tshuva, 6.8 percent and the Boroviches, 6.2 percent.

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