Netanyahu reportedly offered Fischer finance porfolio

Netanyahu reportedly offered Fischer finance porfolio

Outgoing Bank of Israel chief said to have turned down job, believes Israel headed for greater financial hardship

Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer addressing the Knesset Finance Committee in December 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer addressing the Knesset Finance Committee in December 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly offered Bank of Israel chief Stanley Fischer the position of finance minister last month, but he declined the offer.

Fischer, who has run the country’s central bank since 2005, announced on Tuesday that he will step down as the Bank of Israel head effective in June.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, speaking in interviews on Channels 2 and 10 on Tuesday evening, said he knew of no such offers. The Prime Minister’s Office also declined to respond to a Channel 2 query.

The report cited an anonymous source who claimed that Fischer recognizes that his successor at the Bank of Israel will have to weather an even greater economic storm than he did during the recent global recession.

A Channel 10 economic analyst claimed that Fisher preferred the role of foreign minister over any other, were he to be offered a portfolio in the next government.

Fischer also reportedly criticized Netanyahu and Steinitz’s fiscal policies; however, Channel 10 did not specify the nature of his critique or link it to his decision to step down.

Four candidates to replace Fischer were mentioned following his resignation announcement: Netanyahu’s former economic adviser, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg;  former director-general of the Finance Ministry and current president of the Israel Economic Association, Avi Ben-Bassat; deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug, and former president and CEO of Bank Leumi, Galia Maor.

Steinitz said he credits Fischer with helping Israel weather the global economic downturn, and added that it was understood all along that Fischer would retire before the end of his term in 2015.

The governor pledged to continue to serve the Bank of Israel to the fullest of his abilities until his retirement, as well as to assist in finding a suitable replacement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Steinitz called the outgoing governor “an asset not only to Israel’s economy but also to its international image.”

Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) credited Fischer with “upgrading the status of the Bank of Israel” both domestically and abroad.

“We worked very closely together even when we disagreed,” Gafni said, adding that he was sorry to hear of Fischer’s retirement.

Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi and CEO Zion Kenan released a statement in which they said that Fischer “successfully navigated the Bank of Israel and the Israeli monetary system, and kept the Israeli market stable during a period of a serious global economic crisis.”

They added that Fischer was a true professional with “integrity and fairness, and a deep understanding of the needs of the economy and the banking system. His leadership and professionalism will be missed.”

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