(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Turkel Committee, charged with approving candidates for high-ranking positions, met or was set to meet with three candidates for Bank of Israel Governor, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed on Thursday.
The first two meetings, with former Argentine Central Bank President Mario Blejer and former BoI Deputy Gov. Zvi Eckstein, took place Wednesday, while former Finance Ministry director and Bank Mizrahi CEO Victor Medina was slated for a meeting Thursday evening.
The PMO confirmed that the three candidates were the only ones in consideration, indicating that Finance Ministry accountant-general Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, the only woman on the list originally reported in the media, was not a candidate. Opposition Leader Shelly Yacimovich had accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of chauvinism
when he declined, twice, to nominate Acting Governor Karnit Flug to the post.
Flug, who after her second snubbing announced that she would resign once a new governor was in place, has filled the position since the beginning of July, when Stanley Fischer stepped down after eight years of service. Though the uncertainty of who will fill the position has been salient, the professionalized monetary committee Fischer installed has helped maintain an air of stability.
“As long as there’s no crisis, things seem to be managing. There doesn’t seem to be any report of anything going wrong,” says Asher Blass a former BoI chief economist and head of the Economic Research and Consulting Group.
Netanyahu's decision to vet multiple candidates followed an embarrassing spectacle in which the first two nominees for the position, former Governor Jacob Frenkel and Bank HaPoalim chief economist Leo Leiderman, withdrew their nomination
s amid alleged scandals.
Opposition figures have called for an overhaul of the selection process, saying it should be rooted in Knesset hearings.
"The fact that the government gets to appoint the head of the central bank is fine, but instead of having a procedure in which the candidate can have a hearing at the Knesset, as is customary in the United States, we have the system with the Turkel Comittee. That makes a situation where the important issues are not addressed, and others are.”
Frenkel withdrew his candidacy over an alleged shop-lifting incident involving a garment bag in a Hong Kong airport duty free shop. Leiderman, amid reports he routinely consulted with an astrologer, changed his mind on seeking the position after just two days.
“The media has stepped in, perhaps because of that vacuum, and see what they can get their hands on,” says Blass. Whereas other countries require more pertinent informatiom--net wealth statements, income tax returns and assets holdings that may present conflicts of interest--Israel does not.
Nor does the Turkel Committee have any jurisdiction to evaluate the kinds of policy a candidate will offer.
“Frankly, I don’t think anyone has one iota of an idea of how the economic policies of these candidates would compare to one another at all. It’s not being discussed,” says Blass. Victor Medina, he offers, would have very different policies than Frenkel. "It’s hard to imagine how someone could want both Frenkel and Medina."
Assuming Turkel Committee approval, once Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid officially select a candidate, President Shimon Peres and the Cabinet must approve them as well.