He was once celebrated for his vast fortune and daring deals, but when Israeli tycoon Nochi Dankner was about to catch a break from the bank on his massive debts, public outrage kicked in.
Under a cascade of negative media attention, Bank Leumi , Israel’s second largest bank, abruptly cancelled its plans to forego 150 million shekels ($42 million) - a third of the debt owed by Dankner’s Ganden Investments.
After first defending the deal as the best it was likely to get from Dankner, Leumi suddenly announced it had revoked the offer because it concluded that another businessman was going to call off an investment in Dankner’s company.
Leumi’s announcement included a nod to public opinion: CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach “stressed that the bank is responsive to the hearts of the public and respects them,” it said.
The reversal was widely perceived as a sign of change in Israel, where heat is still on from a summer of mass street protests two years ago against the high cost of living.
In an election last January, middle-class dissatisfaction helped to propel political newcomers promoting economic and social reform to key positions in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government.
The shift in tone and voter sentiment is dramatic in a country with one of the highest concentrations of corporate power in the developed world and a skyline of towers in business capital Tel Aviv housing the ultra-rich.
Stung by an unexpectedly weak showing for his party in the ballot, Netanyahu is now vowing to crack down on “monopolies and cartels that prevent competition and thwart price-lowering”.
“It seems things are going to change,” said Daniel Doron head of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress. “For the first time in years, Israelis voted on economic issues, not security and there are now people who want to make changes.”