Finance Ministry Director General Is Second Israeli Treasury Official to Quit in Six Weeks

Keren Terner-Eyal, who served as director general of the Finance Ministry for less than six months, fell out with minister over Shaul Meridor, who quit as budget chief

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Keren Terner-Eyal speaks at a TheMarker conference in Tel Aviv, November 2019.
Keren Terner-Eyal speaks at a TheMarker conference in Tel Aviv, November 2019.Credit: Meged Gozani

The Finance Ministry’s director general resigned on Sunday after less than six months on the job.

The departure of Keren Terner-Eyal, coming just six weeks after treasury budget director Shaul Meridor resigned, sends another shockwave through the ministry at a time when the country still does not have a budget for 2020, and is in the midst of a second nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The budget has been a major point of contention in a coalition fraught with tensions and could lead to the dissolution of the government if not passed by the end of December.

To replace Terner-Eyal, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz appointed the director of the Israel Tax Authority, Eran Yaacov, as the ministry’s acting director general. Yaacov will serve until a permanent replacement is chosen.

The cabinet confirmed Terner-Eyal as director general only in June. Katz brought her over from the Transportation Ministry, where she had served as his director general for close to four years starting in 2016.

But Katz’s relationship with her quickly deteriorated after she took office at the treasury, and on Sunday, she became the latest of a string of senior treasury officials who have left or moved up their departures since Katz took office. Aside from Meridor, they also include Accountant General Roni Hizkiyahu, who moved up his departure to the end of October.

In July, Katz reprimanded Terner-Eyal for issuing a statement on Twitter in support of Meridor. “It’s very hard for me,” she wrote, “to remain indifferent to the unprecedented criticism of ministry officials in general and of Shaul Meridor, the head of the treasury’s budget department, in particular, as well as to the genuinely violent conversation that has developed on social media.”

Katz said he reprimanded her for commenting on professional matters on social media without prior approval, as required by civil service regulations. “It’s not your job to respond and argue and defend bureaucrats against politicians, regardless of the content of their remarks,” he added. “Your job is to carry out the politicians’ decisions.”

Terner-Eyal, 41, had worked in the treasury’s budget department before moving to the Transportation Ministry, where she served first as deputy director general and then as director general. She was on maternity leave when Katz appointed her director general of the treasury.

Meridor, who resigned in late August, said in his resignation letter that Katz did not “enable me or the other public servants in the various divisions of the Finance Ministry and other ministries to do what we know how to do – to formulate, propose, analyze and critique policy measures.”

He also charged that “policy is characterized by narrow, irrelevant and short-term decision-making while professional staff are silenced,” and that “blatant disregard is shown toward staff work, policies are rash and normal budgetary tools and norms are ignored.

“In recent days, after more and more red lines have been crossed and elementary rules of proper economic and budgetary conduct have been crushed, I have decided that I can no longer be part of the system and give legitimacy to the wrong decision-making framework,” Meridor had added.

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