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Prize Day Always Brings Out the Best

The awarding of this year's Israel Prize for Economics to Professor Jacob Frenkel has caused quite a stir among senior staff at both Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Senior lecturers at the Economics faculties of the two institutions have sharply criticized the decision, arguing that although Frenkel contributed much to the field during his term as governor of the Bank of Israel, and more through his international work, his contribution to the academe is far less than other laureates of the prize. According to these lecturers, the prize in the field of economics has always been awarded to someone who has made a great contribution in the area of economic research.

Outrage at the choice of Frenkel was most apparent in a message of congratulations to the second recipient of this year's Israel Prize for Economics, Professor Ariel Rubinstein, that was published in the press some 10 days ago and signed by a list of 27 distinguished economic academics. The message read: "To our dear friend, Ariel Rubinstein, heartiest congratulations on you being awarded the Israel Prize for Economics 2002 in recognition of your excellent academic achievements."

Frenkel's name was noticeably absent from the published announcement, despite the fact that a number of the signatories worked with him in the past on books and articles. The Economics faculty at Tel Aviv University published a joint congratulatory message to both Frenkel and Rubinstein, but this was not accompanied by any list of signatories.

After leaving the Bank of Israel in 1999, Frenkel went to work for Merrill Lynch, where he now serves as president of Merrill Lynch International. In the address to the laureate at the traditional Israel Prize ceremony on Independence Day, there will surely be reference to the former central bank governor's work not only in Israel, where he could be cited for his contribution toward bringing inflation down to western standards, but also his international work, including at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.