Treasury chief Shani resigns over ‘differences of opinion’

Director-general's move may have been related to social protests; move comes as PM is expected to make changes to tax burden on the public.

By NADAV SHEMER
July 31, 2011 10:17
2 minute read.
Finance Ministry Director-General Haim Shani

Finance Ministry Director-General Haim Shani 311. (photo credit: Tamar Matzpi / Globes)

 
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Finance Ministry director-general Haim Shani announced his resignation unexpectedly on Sunday morning, citing ongoing “differences of opinion” with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Shani reportedly quit because of Steinitz’s cancellation of Moshe Asher’s appointment as Israel Tax Authority director, which went against Shani’s recommendation.

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However, Shani alluded in his resignation letter to disagreement over the ongoing public protests against the high cost of living.

“To my great regret, my desire to contribute to the State of Israel through my management and business experience cannot be fulfilled under these conditions,” Shani said. “The events of these past few days magnify the problems I described and reinforce my opinion that under the current circumstances I cannot fill the position of Finance Ministry director-general as I see fit.”

Steinitz said that he accepts the resignation with “sadness and understanding.” He called Shani “one of the most gifted managers in the public service, whose contribution to economic growth and the reduction in unemployment was worth its weight in gold.”

Shani, a former CEO of Ra’anana-based NICE Systems Ltd., replaced Yoram Ariav as Treasury chief in 2009. Ariav called Shani’s resignation “stunning” in an interview with Army Radio, saying: “The Finance Ministry director- general needs the full support of the finance minister and the prime minister, something which was apparently lacking.”

Prime Minister’s Office director- general Eyal Gabai cautioned against speculating that the resignation was related to the public protests, telling Army Radio that “people in the Treasury come, go and resign.”

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There have been whispers in recent weeks that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wanted to appoint Shani to replace Gabai – who will leave his post at the end of August – because the two men had worked closely on a committee to increase competition in the economy, Globes reported.

The report quoted sources as saying that Shani had been working on a new economic plan similar to the stabilization plan of the mid-1980s, and that Steinitz’s rejection of this plan prompted his resignation.

Instead of accepting the initiative, Steinitz reportedly turned to economist Eytan Sheshinski to chair a committee to examine measures to help the middle class.

Globes and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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