Jacob Frenkel (again) named Bank of Israel governor

Jacob Frenkel (again) named Bank of Israel governor

Prime minister enlists financial heavyweight to succeed Stanley Fischer and manage central bank for second time

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

After lengthy speculation over who will succeed Professor Stanley Fischer, Dr. Jacob A. Frenkel was announced Sunday as the next governor of the Bank of Israel, 13 years after leaving the job.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid chose Frenkel, who headed the Bank of Israel for almost a decade between 1991 and 2000 and who currently heads the prestigious banking firm JPMorgan Chase, as the man to run Israel’s top economic institution.

The appointment will be submitted to the committee headed by Judge Turkel for approval and then to the Cabinet.

Educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Chicago, the 70-year-old economist has held a number of key positions in top international firms, including AIG and Merrill Lynch. He has also worked in leading international finance organizations, including the International Monetary Fund. He won the Israel Prize for economics in 2002.

Speaking at a goodbye ceremony for Fischer, Netanyahu said that the greatest threat to the economy was “waves of populism… that already swept over many other economies.”

Fischer, who has held the post since 2005, announced his resignation from the Bank of Israel in January, two years before the scheduled end of his second term. He is set to step down later this month, and Netanyahu was under growing pressure to find a replacement.

Stanley Fischer at a press briefing on Wednesday, February 13 (photo credit: Courtesy JPC)
Outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer (photo credit: Courtesy JPC)

At the time, Yuval Steinitz, then the finance minister, thanked the noted economist for his service as head of the central bank, calling the outgoing governor “an asset not only to Israel’s economy, but also to its international image.”

Fischer, 69, was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and lived in Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe) before his family moved to the United States. He served as the chief economist at the World Bank in the late 1980s and as first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund from 1994 to 2001.

Fischer is widely credited with having protected the Israeli economy from the worst of the global financial ravages. Earlier this month, when he took his leave of the Knesset Finance Committee, he won praise from government and opposition MKs.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor Party), called Fischer a “financial leader” and “my favorite capitalist.” Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said he had demonstrated an ability to “make tough choices” and that he was not “a representative of the government, but rather a representative of the people.”

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