A dispute Sunday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid has delayed the appointment of a new governor for Israel's central bank, though the process is already lagging several months behind schedule.
Analysts say Netanyahu backs appointing former Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank chief executive Victor Medina, while Lapid backs Zvi Eckstein, who served as Bank of Israel deputy governor under Governor Stanley Fischer from 2005 to 2010.
The prime and finance ministers met last Thursday to discuss filling the Bank of Israel governor's post, but the two failed to reach an agreement. Analysts believe the third candidate in the running, former Argentinian central bank President Mario Blejer, would be the candidate of compromise should Netanyahu and Lapid fail to agree.
The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the apparent dispute. Lapid's office rebutted reports of any disagreement.
"We have not heard about any differences of opinion. Not everything the media prints is accurate or veracious," the finance minister's office said. The office confirmed that the appointment of a candidate was again delayed, and said that it would probably go through only after the Sukkot holiday.
Last week, former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel approved the nominations of the three candidates and told the prime minister that, from his perspective, all three were fit to serve as the next governor of Israel's central bank.
Medina, 74, was director-general at the Finance Ministry in the late 1980s and later served as CEO of Mizrahi, Israel's fourth-largest bank. He was a candidate for Bank of Israel chief in 2005. He is considered to be a leading economist specializing in interest policy and managing the exchange rate. He is backed by several senior bankers and business executives.
Eckstein, 64, served as Fischer's deputy during his first term and is currently dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He is thought to be favored by Lapid.
Globes on Sunday reported that Lapid is opposed to Medina's nomination because of a dispute between Medina and former Bank Mizrahi Chairman Yaakov Peri, who today serves as science and technology minister on Lapid's party ticket. Medina reportedly received a 13.5 million shekel (then around $3.1 million) retirement package from Bank Mizrahi in 2003 and, according to Globes, Medina and Peri stopped speaking as a result.
Bank Mizrahi, at the time, reportedly "forgot" to inform the stock market of Medina's generous retirement package, despite the fact that a public company must report such bonuses.
Medina and Eckstein did not respond to the report by press time.