Text size

Stanley Fischer is apparently an outstanding banker. And an outstanding economist. And an outstanding person, as well. A warmhearted Jew, a dedicated Zionist, almost a Hebrew speaker. Fischer is also a former leader of the Habonim Zionist youth movement in Rhodesia. And a former student of the Jewish Agency school for activists from abroad. And a former volunteer at Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael. And a former supporter of the Peace Now movement. The close friend of several leading figures in the Israeli economy, the darling of some of the economic commentators. The person who helped formulate the stabilization program that saved the Israeli economy about 20 years ago.

Nevertheless, in spite of all these things, the criticism that has been heard in Israel regarding Fischer's appointment as the Bank of Israel governor is justified. It does not stem from provincial envy or from xenophobia on the part of native Israelis. On the contrary.

It is criticism that stems from a profound sense of democracy, which maintains that a person cannot be the emissary of a community that he has just joined. A person cannot shape the destiny of a community of which he has not been a part until now. There is no shaping of destiny without partnership.

With all due respect to Fischer, he has not been a partner to our destiny until now. The vice president of Citigroup accompanied us from Wall Street, and empathized with us from Wall Street, but did not take an active part in our lives. He was not with us during our military service. He was not with us during the trials of Israeli civilian life. He was not with us during our aliyah (immigration) or our absorption of aliyah. Not in peace and not in war. Not in the sweat of reserve duty, and not in the exasperation of trying to obtain a mortgage.

Therefore, in the most profound sense, the man who was a candidate for the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank is not part of our glory. Nor can he become one of the leaders of our community overnight.

Although Fischer's professional skills are of the highest caliber, he does not meet the minimum public requirements for leading the Israeli community and showing it where to turn, and how it should treat each and every one of the scarred people who were here during aliyah and absorption, peace and war, the reserves and the mortgage.

Some people claim that Fischer's anticipated landing in the office of the governor illustrates the Zionist vision. The truth is that Fischer's accelerated aliyah is not Zionism, but rather postmodernism. It brings the postmodern rationale of globalization to the point of absurdity. And it is liable to create an intolerable situation, in which official Israel will be speaking out of the mouth of the American multimillionaire, who will give strict American monetarist instructions (in American English) to the Qassam-besieged residents of Sderot.

It's bad enough that we have Shari Arison. It's bad enough that many of the state's assets have been transferred into the hands of wealthy families whose true commitment to the Israeli community and Israeli destiny is minimal.

It's bad enough that the largest bank in the country has been placed into the hands of a cruise ship heiress from Florida, who is here when it suits her and leaves when it suits her. The possibility that the government bank will now be handed over to a guest governor from Manhattan is simply intolerable.

It's true that the Israeli economy is likely to profit from Fischer's appointment. But Israeli society and Israeli democracy are not capable of bearing the moral costs of this unacceptable postmodern appointment.