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PM settles on new candidates for central bank chief

After Frenkel and Leiderman withdraw amid scandals, names of four more senior economists to be sent to the vetting committee

(From left) Jacob Frenkel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer at a press conference in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
(From left) Jacob Frenkel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer at a press conference in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After their first two candidates for Bank of Israel governor backed out, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday finalized a new shortlist of four candidates for the job, Channel 2 reported.

Lapid and Netanyahu have narrowed down the potential candidates to Mario Blejer, Zvi Eckstein, Victor Medina and Michal Abadi-Boiangiu.

Blejer, who is considered Netanyahu’s preferred candidate for the job was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1968. He briefly headed the Central Bank of Argentina in 2002.

Eckstein is the dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and served as deputy governor of the Bank of Israel from 2006 to 2011.

Medina, the oldest of the candidates at 74, is a former Finance Ministry director general and has also served as the CEO of the United Mizrahi Bank

Abadi-Boiangiu currently serves as the accountant general at the Finance Ministry.

Would-be governors of Israel’s central bank are nominated by the prime minister and finance minister, after which they are vetted by a committee headed by former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel.

In the last week and a half, two nominees for the post have withdrawn from the running to replace Stanley Fischer, who stepped down more than a month ago.

On July 29, Jacob Frenkel, who headed the Bank of Israel from 1991-2000, notified Netanyahu and Lapid that he would not be taking up the position for which he was personally selected by the prime minister just a month before. Frenkel said that he was fed up with the rampant media hype over what he insisted was an erroneous accusation of shoplifting at a Hong Kong airport seven years ago. On Wednesday, Hong Kong authorities produced a letter proving that Frenkel had been charged but was later let off.

Two days later, Bank Hapoalim economist Leo Leiderman was named as s replacement candidate, but he withdrew his candidacy last Friday. According to reports, the turnaround was a consequence of anonymous complaints of sexual misconduct on Leiderman’s part that were received at Turkel’s office.

Karnit Flug, the acting governor, a 25-year Bank of Israel veteran, was apparently Fischer’s preference for the post. She has also been resoundingly endorsed by opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich. But Netanyahu is widely said to disagree with Flug’s economic philosophy.

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