In the tens of thousands of words that have been written about the variously
called Bank of Israel “saga,” “fiasco,” “debacle,” and other like descriptions,
both here and abroad, we find much innuendo mixed with supposition, topped with
solemn, doom-laden pronouncements, and a few kernels of truth.
are those tiny kernels and what can we glean from them? The Hebrew papers by and
large lynched the first candidate for governor of the BoI, Jacob Frenkel, and
the roots of the assassination probably lie in his previous stints as governor.
In order to carry out the deed, they seized on an incident that they portrayed
as shoplifting, which would have been laughable if the ending had not been so
The facts appear to be that in 2006 Frenkel tried to take an item
of luggage out of a duty free store, leaving a colleague to pay for the item
because he was rushing to catch a flight.
Sounds plausible? It does to
me, and obviously did to the authorities in Hong Kong where the incident took
place because, according to a report in one of the Hebrew papers yesterday,
though he was initially charged, the indictment was withdrawn two months later.
Frenkel’s explanation was good enough for America's largest bank JPMorgan Chase
& Co where he currently serves as chairman of JPMorgan Chase
He also serves as chairman and CEO of the Group of Thirty
(G-30), a nonprofit, consultative group on international economic and monetary
Regardless of Frenkel's international standing, our intrepid
members of the fourth estate, which won't let the facts get in the way of a good
story, had no compunction in relentlessly using the incident against him to
destroy his chances of appointment. One can only guess that during his previous
stints as governor of the BoI he rubbed some feathers the wrong way and now it
is payback time.
This doesn’t hold true for the innocuous Prof. Leo
Leiderman, whose main “crime” was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong
time, but it was perfect timing for our carnivorous press to once again chomp on
our prime minister, their favorite bête noir.
Regardless of whether the
flurry of allegations aimed at the hapless Leiderman are true or not, it bears
saying that, if accurate, his alleged fascination with astrology would have
returned to haunt him, and us, time and time again. He would have been the
constant butt of jokes, thereby making it hard to take him seriously and would,
further, have diminished the status of one of our premier national institutions.
Not fair, but predictable and damaging.
Now we come to the most curious
case of the prime minister’s pointed avoidance of doing the obvious, giving the
job to former deputy and current acting governor of the BoI, Dr. Karnit Flug,
who was recommended by outgoing BoI governor Stanley Fischer to be his
There has been some finger-pointing at the dearth of women in
key positions in Netanyahu’s various bureaux, chatter intended to imply a gender
bias on his part.
I believe that there is nothing so sinister afoot. As a
devotee of the principle of Occam’s razor, that the simplest explanation is
usually the correct one, I believe that Bibi the man decided long ago that
discretion was the better part of valor, and certainly of shalom bayit
(literally translated as “peace in the home”). It may be as simple, and sad, as
As far as Flug is concerned, Netanyahu is reported as stating that
they do not share the same economic vision. Klug herself made this very clear in
the 1990s when she wrote in an article that Netanyahu was not responsible for
Israel’s economic recovery following the meltdown caused by high inflation and
high interest rates. Bibi was miffed and now it is his turn for payback. Klug
should not be surprised – in politics, a week may be a long time, but
politicians’ memories are much longer.
It is unfortunate that portentous
decisions that impact the individual and collective lives of a nation are often
made – or not made – for the most petty of reasons. We need look no further than
the recent past when Netanyahu dragged out coalition negotiations following
January’s Knesset elections until the eleventh hour because he (and his wife)
had fallen out years earlier with one of his principal potential
The end result was inevitable – he had to bring Bayit Yehudi
and Naftali Bennett into his government, but he paid a ridiculously high price
for his pettiness and obstinacy. He was forced to align with the six-seat Hatnua
party and relinquish two precious ministerial positions at an early stage in the
process, thus alienating many in his own party and leaving him with fewer
bargaining chips for the continuing negotiations, which included, as a primary
demand, the downsizing of government.
His ongoing, and inexplicable,
obsession with keeping the haredi parties in his governments is another case in
point. He is surely aware that governance is far easier without the constant,
usurious demands of parties that are only concerned with the narrow interests of
their constituents, often to the detriment of the wider national interest. He
must also know that he will never lose the support of those parties in the
long-term because he can always get them back on board at a price, which he has
hitherto shown he is willing to pay.
It is a sorry situation that, on the
one hand, we are held hostage by media that seriously suffer from both the “tall
poppy” syndrome which relishes cutting the talented and famous down to (their)
size and from a mindless compulsion to attack right-wing leadership at every and
any opportunity, irresponsibly torpedoing any appointment it might make, while
on the other hand we are headed by a gifted but deeply flawed leader who
consistently allows personal considerations to impact deleteriously on good
governance and sound decision-making. We deserve better.
The writer is a
journalist and editor living in Jerusalem. She made aliya from Australia in