A meeting late Wednesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid concluded without the naming of a new Bank of Israel governor, despite expectations.
After a two-hour tete-a-tete in the Prime Minister’s Office at the Knesset, the two emerged with a joint statement that promised a successor for outgoing Bank chief Stanley Fischer by Sunday.
Hebrew media speculation has it that the leading candidate for the influential post, in a process that has dragged on for over days, is Professor Zvi Eckstein.
Eckstein is the dean of the School of Economics at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), and served as the Bank of Israel’s deputy chief between fron 2006-11.
The prime minister originally intended to decide on Fischer’s replacement shortly after the Sukkot holiday, but the decision has been repeatedly postponed, and Netanyahu now faces some pressure to conclude the affair quickly.
Two previous candidates — Jacob Frenkel and Leo Leiderman — dropped out after accepting the post. Frenkel, a previous governor, became embroiled in reports of a shoplifting scandal, which he denied, and Leiderman faced complaints to the vetting committee, known as the Turkel Commission, which he might have resolved but chose to avoid the protracted process.
Eckstein is reportedly the finance minister’s favorite, while the prime minister may prefer the internationally renowned Professor Mario Blejer. A third candidate, Victor Medina, is considered an outside. The three have all passed the Turkel panel’s vetting process.
Channel 10 news revealed over the summer that three Nobel Prize-winning American economists, Thomas J. Sargent, Robert Lucas, Jr. and Edward C. Prescott, recommended Eckstein to Netanyahu and Lapid.
Fischer, an American-Israeli economist, served as bank chief from 2005 until this summer, having announced his intention to step down at the start of the year. He was previously chief economist at the World Bank.