KESSAR, ISRAEL (1931– ), Israeli political and union leader, member of the Eleventh to Thirteenth Knessets. Born in San ʿ a, Yemen, Kessar was brought to Israel at the age of two. He went to school in Jerusalem. Before and after the War of Independence he studied and worked at the Youth Center for New Immigrants. In 1956 he received a B.A. in sociology and economics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1960–61 he was employed as assistant and advisor to the minister of labor, Giora Josephtal, and in 1961–66 he served as head of the Department for Rehabilitation and Professional Direction in the Ministry of Labor. In 1966 he began his career in the *Histadrut, serving until 1971 as chairman of the Youth and Sports Department. In this period he was also appointed chairman of the Manpower Department of the Histadrut. He resumed his studies, and in 1972 completed an M.A. in Labor Studies at Tel Aviv University. In 1972–77 Kessar served as treasurer of the Histadrut, and in the latter year joined the Labor Party Secretariat. In the years 1977–84 he headed the Trade Union Section, and served as deputy secretary general of the Histadrut, under Yeruham Meshel. In 1984 he was elected on behalf of the Labor Party as secretary general of the Histadrut, and was elected to the Eleventh Knesset on the Alignment list. He supported the government economic stabilization plan when Shimon *Peres served as prime minister, and Yitzhak *Modai as minister of finance, but struggled to prevent a steep fall in real wages and an increase in unemployment.
Kessar participated in the contest for the Labor Party leadership in 1992 against Yitzhak *Rabin, Peres and Ora *Namir, receiving close to 20% of the votes. Peres' supporters argued that had Kessar withdrawn from the leadership contest, Peres, who received 34% of the vote, might have beaten Rabin, who received just over 40%. In the Labor government of 1992–96 Kessar served as minister of transportation. He did not run in the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset owing to his wife's poor health.
[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.