Acting Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug said her gender may have something to do with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to overlook her for the top post at the central bank.
In an interview published in Yedioth Ahronoth Wednesday, asked if she thought there was sexism involved in Netanyahu’s disinclination to select her for the job — when previous governor Stanley Fischer recommended her, and two intended appointees withdrew — Flug answered: “Maybe… Until then I had never come across the so-called ‘glass ceiling’ in my professional career. I’ve always known that women carry a heavier burden than men because of the two-fold job of being a mother and a career woman, but I believed that it is in our power to combine and balance the two responsibilities… Only in the last two months, when I realized the intensity of the resistance against my appointment to governor of the bank, did the thought occur to me that maybe my disqualification was connected — also — to my being a woman.”
The process of choosing the governor of the Bank of Israel should be more transparent, she said, as it used to be.
“It was good and appropriate to establish clear criteria for the job of governor,” she said. “On the basis of these criteria, the nominees were evaluated. At the end, the prime minister would decide and bring his decision to the government, but the reasons for his choice then were transparent and open. Not like today, when there is no explanation for the disqualification [of a candidate]. I am frustrated and disappointed by the absence [of this].”
Flug also addressed the growing public perception that the search for a new governor has become a farce.
“I am very sorry to see how the process has taken shape,” she said. “It does not bring honor to Israel, to say the least. The way the Turkel Committee [which vets candidates] is required to work provides the opportunity to sully somebody’s name with intolerable ease and bring up anonymous complaints against them. And the committee itself has no choice but to check all of them. Like I said, all of this is really a shame.”
Flug has been the acting governor of the central bank since its former chief, Fischer, stepped down June 30. She was Fisher’s choice as successor, and is well-regarded within the establishment. But Netanyahu has since nominated two failed candidates for the post — former governor Jacob Frenkel and Bank Hapoalim head Leo Leiderman, both of whom dropped their bids amid scandal.
Frenkel removed himself as a candidate after it was revealed that he was briefly held for alleged shoplifting in Hong Kong’s airport eight years ago.
Leiderman decided — within hours of agreeing to take it on — that he did not want the job. Leiderman’s advisers told him that he was likely to face the same kind of media treatment that Frenkel had received. Reports in the Hebrew media said that anonymous parties had filed complaints against Leiderman with the office of former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel; the nature of the complaints was not revealed.
Professor Mario Blejer, the former governor of Argentina’s central bank, is now reportedly the leading candidate for the governorship, which is selected by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid for the post.
After Leiderman’s nomination, Flug announced her intention to leave the Bank of Israel once a new governor was in place, but she made clear in the Wednesday interview that this hadn’t been her original plan.
“I just want to clear up a point here that may have been forgotten,” Flug said. “When the announcement went out about the nomination of Jacob Frenkel for bank governor, I said publicly that it was my intention to continue in my job and help Frenkel reintegrate in the bank. That was my original intention.”
David Shamah contributed to this report.