Jacob Turkel, Netanyahu - Government Press Office - Jan. 23, 2010
Jacob Turkel and Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Government Press Office
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The senior civil service appointments committee - better known as the Turkel Committee, after its chairman for the past seven years, retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel - did not even have time to meet to discuss the candidacy of Prof. Leo Leiderman for the post of governor of the Bank of Israel; Leiderman rushed to decline the position, for reasons known only to him.

Beyond the obvious confusion caused by the decision of two candidates, Jacob Frenkel and now Leiderman, to turn down a shot at the highest position in Israel to which an economist could aspire, it is worth noting with approbation the effectiveness of the Turkel Committee as a sort of public purifier in the sphere of ethical standards, and in setting a personal example when it comes to senior officials, even when it is not called to perform the task. Apparently this is what the High Court of Justice meant when it declared, in expanding the committee's powers: "Administrative review can thus be even broader than judicial review, which focuses on examining whether a ruling contains a legal flaw."

The necessity of the Turkel Committee cannot be questioned: Between the end of 2010 and the spring of 2011 nearly all of the office-holders under its purview (the army chief of staff, twice; the heads of both the Mossad and the Shin Bet security service; the police commissioner, the head of the prison service and the deputy governor of the Bank of Israel) were called in turn to give an accounting. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid succeed in reconciling within days the contradiction between the need for appointing a new governor quickly and the need for a thorough vetting, the Turkel Committee will debate a third candidate for the post. If they dally, that task will go to the committee's successor - because in just two and a half weeks, on August 22, the panel will cease to exist in its current configuration. Turkel must step down after completing two terms, to be replaced by a different retired Supreme Court justice. Two other members, the former cabinet minister Moshe Nissim and the former Knesset member Gila Finkelstein, are permitted to serve for three more years, but their reelection to the committee is not assured. The fourth and final member of the panel is the civil service commissioner.

In order to guarantee the efficacy of the committee in its new composition, it needs energetic, nonpartisan figures whose loyalties are to the state, not the government. Since committee members are appointed by the cabinet, it is of critical importance that political considerations do not affect the new composition of the panel, and consequently the committee's deterrent power.