Far-right minister calls Bank of Israel governor a ‘savage’; Netanyahu condemns

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu receives wide criticism for comments accusing Amir Yaron of ‘sullying Israel’s name abroad and harming the credit rating’

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu arrives at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu arrives at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In comments condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu called Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron a “savage” Sunday morning and said he was causing damage to the State of Israel and should be fired.

In a radio interview, Eliyahu, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, accused Yaron of “sullying Israel’s name abroad and harming its credit rating, harming the economy of Israel — he should be kicked out, a savage.”

In his comments to the Kol Barama station, Eliyahu said that “this person continues to serve in his role because the judicial reform has not been carried out.”

It was not clear what connection Eliyahu was drawing between the government’s shelved judicial overhaul plan and the Bank of Israel governor, who is appointed by the prime minister and approved by the cabinet. Contrary to his claim, Israel’s credit rating has not dropped, although Moody’s downgraded Israel’s credit outlook in April.

Shortly after his comments, Netanyahu tweeted that he “fully condemns the comments of Minister Amichai Eliyahu against the governor of the Bank of Israel, a dedicated public servant who does his job faithfully for the good of the Israeli economy and Israeli citizens.”

Hours later, Eliyahu apologized for his wording but doubled down on his criticism of Yaron. “The style was inappropriate and I apologize for it — I was before my morning coffee,” he told Kan’s Reshet Bet radio. But the minister tweeted that he believed the governor was acting “irresponsibly” and trying to “subvert the democratic will.”

Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron speaks at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) conference in Jerusalem, May 30, 2023. (Oded Karni)

In response to his comments, the Bank of Israel issued a statement saying that both it and Yaron “will continue to act professionally and to protect the economy of Israel.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also condemned Eliyahu’s comments as “inappropriate and out of place.”

Smotrich said that “even if there is legitimate criticism, it is important that it be relevant and respectful,” and said his ministry continues to give full backing to the work of the central bank governor.

Eliyahu’s remarks also received widespread condemnation from opposition figures.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted: “The heritage of the heritage minister: rudeness, ignorance and lashing out which nobody understands.”

Shortly before Netanyahu’s condemnation, National Unity party chief Benny Gantz called on the prime minister “to fully condemn these shameful and divisive statements” and accused him of being silent “in the face of coalition incitement.”

Labor leader Merav Michaeli praised Yaron for his dedication to his job, and slammed government lawmakers for attacking him “instead of starting to work to lower the cost of living.”

Otzma Yehudit MK Amichai Eliyahu speaks in the Knesset on December 6, 2022. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

Eliyahu is the latest in a series of government officials who have publicly lambasted Yaron, an apolitical appointee. Yaron has come under fire after repeatedly warning that the government’s judicial overhaul plans will harm the economy, including in English-language interviews.

Last month, United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler said Yaron should quit over repeated interest rate hikes that have not quelled inflation, claiming that government power was in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.

Eichler at the time said Yaron should “stand trial by the public” for his failures to halt soaring prices.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and MK David Bitan, both members of Likud, also slammed the bank in February, with Cohen going as far as urging government intervention.

In April, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said the Bank of Israel chief should be replaced with a robot, in what appeared to be an attempt to criticize the bank’s raising of rates instead of pausing to see how the hikes affect inflation.

Meanwhile, the government has faced widespread criticism that it is not dealing with the cost of living crisis, instead focusing on its controversial judicial overhaul plans.

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