Netanyahu's office denies submitting 'list' of candidates to head Bank of Israel

Post vacant since Stanley Fischer's departure in June; two candidates withdrew after separate alleged scandals.

By
August 11, 2013 15:31
2 minute read.
Mario Blejer.

Argentinian BoI candidate Mario Blejer 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday denied reports that it had submitted the names of four – or any – possible nominees for Bank of Israel governor for vetting and approval by the Turkel Committee.

Contrary to media reports, it said no meeting had been scheduled or took place with former Argentine Central Bank president Mario Blejer, who had been reported as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s favored candidate for the position.

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On Thursday night, Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu would submit a list of several candidates, including Blejer, BoI Deputy Gov. Zvi Eckstein, former Finance Ministry director and Bank Mizrahi CEO Victor Medina, and current Finance Ministry accountant-general Michal Abadi-Boiangiu.

Army Radio and Haaretz on Sunday reported that Blejer had flown to Israel on Friday, and was set to meet with the committee to advance his candidacy for the position.

According to Globes, both Blejer and Eckstein spoke with Netanyahu by phone, and Blejer met with Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday.

Whoever Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid choose will be the third nominee since former governor Stanley Fischer stepped down in June. The first two nominees, former BoI governor Jacob Frenkel and Bank Hapoalim chief economist Leo Leiderman, both withdrew their candidacies over alleged scandals.

In Fischer’s absence, his deputy Karnit Flug has taken the role of acting governor.

Netanyahu and Lapid overlooked Flug for the nomination twice, despite votes of confidence from Fischer and several prominent MKs. Following Leiderman’s nomination, Flug announced she would step down.

Critics, such as opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), have accused Netanyahu of “chauvinism” in his persistent refusal to consider Flug, arousing suspicion that the addition of Michal Abadi- Boiangiu to the list was intended to counter such claims.

“The prime minister has not given up his attempt to find a foreign appointment, and, oddly, continues to ignore deputy governor Karnit Flug, despite the price the appointment process is exacting on the image of economic leadership and the harm caused by the strengthening of the shekel,” said Rafi Gozlan, chief economist at IBI.

The shekel broke a 2-year record in strength last week, with its value against the dollar falling to 3.53 on Friday.

Psagot’s Uri Greenfeld observed that members of the Bank’s monetary committee have gone to great lengths to downplay the leadership gap; even without a governor, it continues to make regular monetary decisions. But that may not settle the foreign exchange markets.

“Naturally, the saga of choosing a governor with all its epic twists and the feeling that there’s no head of house at the Bank have brought foreign players to bet on the strength of the shekel,” he said.


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