On steady ground
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On steady ground

Quakes rattle northern Israel but the real earthshaking news is that the Bank of Israel has a governor, finally

Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiani at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Sunday. Lahiani was removed by the court as mayor, but can still run in Tuesday's elections (photo credit: Flash90)
Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiani at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Sunday. Lahiani was removed by the court as mayor, but can still run in Tuesday's elections (photo credit: Flash90)

One hundred and twelve days. That’s how long the office of governor of the Bank of Israel has sat empty. But no more! Monday’s dailies heap praise on the first woman chosen to lead the Bank of Israel.

Dr. Karnit Flug, who has led the Bank of Israel as acting governor since Stanley Fischer stepped down at the end of June, is front and center on all the dailies. Israel Hayom’s front page highlights the significance of her appointment with the headline, “The first female governor.” The road to Flug’s appointment was not easy and the paper recalls the embarrassing failures on the way. Ultimately, the paper reports, what may have tipped the scales in favor of Flug was a phone call from Fischer to Netanyahu recommending her again for the position.

In an accompanying op-ed piece, Hezi Sternlicht praises Flug for being down to earth and not an economic superstar (like Larry Summers). “Economic stars did not want to come. Hand on heart, who can blame them. Who wants to come here, learn Hebrew and then get shouted at on the street?” he writes. Instead Flug has already proved to be a good manager of the most important part of the Israeli economy (according to Sternlicht). “The only thing regrettable is that the appointment lingered on and took so much time. This is an opportunity to regulate the process, and maybe create a public or committee appointment process that is transparent in the Knesset.”

Over in Haaretz, Amir Oren comes to pretty much the same conclusion. After meandering on about the scandal that derailed Jacob Frenkel’s candidacy, Oren points to the lessons we should learn from the whole debacle. “The functioning of Netanyahu and Lapid teach us how dangerous it is to allow two people to determine the fate of a nation.” It’s no surprise that Oren’s conclusion (like Sternlicht’s) is to make the process more public and (in his words) “more serious.”

In Yedioth Ahronoth, Sima Kadmon writes that one positive aspect of Netanyahu relenting on his previous position against Flug and now appointing her shows that he is prepared to reevaluate issues. “We hope that on other issues he will be as open and attentive, including to the repeated recommendations of experts and the public sentiment,” Kadmon writes.

“Karnit is not alone” is the theme of a photo array in Yedioth that highlights the key positions that women currently hold in the Israeli economy. Included in the list is the executive director of the Finance Ministry, Yael Endorn, the Finance Ministry’s Accountant General Michal Abadi–Boiangiu, and the heads of Bank Leumi, the First International Bank of Israel, and Bank Discount.

Over in Maariv, Yossi Greenstein skips over praising Flug and instead focuses on the problems facing the new governor. Greenstein argues that the first priority should be to reduce poverty in Israel. “In the Western world, Israel tops the list for poverty. 40% of children and one-third of the population are living in poverty or at risk to slip below the poverty line, and the situation is getting worse.” But that’s not all there is on Flug’s plate; according to Greenstein there’s also: lowering the price of consumer goods, currency depreciation, accelerating economic activity, and lowering inflation. As if that’s not enough, Greenstein concludes that she must also lead the Bank of Israel to help the government to increase employment, increase growth and assistance to exporters, and help businesses get through the downturn. Good luck, Dr. Flug!

Land matters

While Sunday’s news of the appointment of the first female governor of the Bank of Israel could be considered an economic earthquake, actual earthquakes rattled northern Israel. Maariv reports that over the past four days four earthquakes have been felt around the Sea of Galilee. Sunday’s largest quake registered 3.6 on the Richter scale and while it didn’t cause any injuries, it did inflict some minor property damage. As the paper points out, there is a history of earthquakes in the region, with the last big one hitting in 1927.

The land in the north may be moving, but back in Jerusalem government ministers are trying to lock down any movement to negotiate over the capital. Haaretz reports that a proposed bill would require the approval of 80 Knesset members before negotiations over Jerusalem could begin. The bill, which is sponsored by Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), has met resistance from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads negotiations with the Palestinians. Along with Livni, Yair Lapid opposes the bill and perhaps most importantly, Netanyahu is expected to come out against it.

National politics landed on the front page of Haaretz, and over in Israel Hayom local politics gets some of that coveted real estate. With municipal elections a day away, the Supreme Court removed indicted Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiani from office due to the seriousness of the indictment against him (bribery, fraud, and breach of trust). The justices scolded the city for allowing Lahiani to remain in office, accusing city officials of making a mockery of the court. But don’t feel too bad for Lahiani; despite his removal from office he is still allowed to run in Tuesday’s elections.

Finally, the Tax Authority has set its sights on Israeli crooner Eyal Golan. Yedioth reports that the singer has been charged with not declaring or paying income tax on NIS 2.6 million (about $736,000). Golan is one of Israel’s biggest stars and the paper reports that he makes about NIS 14 million per year (about $3.9 million). Golan isn’t the only signer to run afoul of the tax man, as singers Moshe Peretz and Kobi Peretz (no relation) are also accused of hiding their earnings from the state.

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