The saga of the appointment of a governor for the Bank of Israel may finally be drawing to a close. Minister of Finance Yair Lapid told "Globes" that, within days, the appointment of the new governor will be announced. He declined to comment on the latest media reports that Prof. Zvi Eckstein will be appointed to the post. One of the three candidates approved by the Turkel Committee - Prof. Mario Blejer, Victor Medina, or Eckstein - will reportedly be appointed.
Lapid admitted that he would have preferred it if the appointment process for the governor had not become as complicated as it did. "Obviously, I would have preferred things to have turned out otherwise. We could have lived without all these events," he said.
On Saturday, Lapid concluded his first visit to the US as finance minister. He visited New York and attended the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting in Washington. "This was supposed to mainly be an economic visit, but in the end, it was mostly about diplomacy," he said.
Lapid held a series of meetings, including with Vice President Joe Biden, in order, among other things, to ensure that everyone was still committed to the Iranian issue, and that they were not softening in the face of conciliatory remarks by Iran's president. Lapid believes that his meetings achieved this goal, and that so long as Iran does not take operational steps to cancel its nuclear program, it will not enjoy a more supportive attitude.
"The US's commitment to Israel is as strong as ever. This may be one of the few issues that unites the American Congress," he said.
As for Israel's economic situation, Lapid was favorably surprised at how Israel is viewed. "In Israel, everyone criticizes us about the economic situation, but overseas, we're congratulated. With all the praise for the Israeli economy, I was beginning to fear that the Americans intend to reduce aid for Israel," he said with a smile.
Banking must change
Several top officials have recently left the Ministry of Finance, and "Globes" has reported that the reason for their departure was usually a difficult relationship with Lapid. Lapid believes that there will be no more departures from the ministry, saying that the mood there was harmonious. "Most of the ministry's top officials were appointed by me. There were tensions at the beginning, and that's natural, especially given the deficit and policy changes following the change of ministers, but there are no tensions now," he said.
Commenting on the establishment of Israel's first social bank, Ofek, Lapid said, "I favor a change in banking. Fees are high and service is not good enough. One way or another, another alternative must be created, and I welcome the idea of a new player entering the game," he said. However, he did not promise that the Ministry of Finance would help the social bank grow, despite calls for it to do so. "We have not yet held meetings on the matter. This is a subject that definitely needs to be addressed," he said.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 13, 2013
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