Netanyahu, Doing What He Does Best: Procrastinating

Why hasn't Bibi chosen a new governor for the Bank of Israel? Many suspect he's procrastinating because he's procrastinating. He has a problem with making the big decisions crucial for Israel's survival.

Meirav Arlosoroff
Meirav Arlosoroff
Meirav Arlosoroff
Meirav Arlosoroff

We'll admit it – maybe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing a surprise for us. Maybe he has a rabbit in his hat, just as he did eight years ago. Then finance minister in Ariel Sharon's government, at the last moment he presented the ultimate candidate to lead the Bank of Israel – Stanley Fischer.

So it's possible that the prime minister is putting off announcing the next governor because he's negotiating with a world-renowned name. It's possible.

But if he is, nobody's in the loop. Nor does anybody think it likely. The prevailing opinion is that Netanyahu's dithering is, as usual, simply his modus operandi.

As finance minister, he excelled – with the tools of decisive treasury officials subordinate to him and a resolute prime minister like Ariel Sharon as his superior. As prime minister, when he's where the shekel stops, Netanyahu finds it difficult to achieve the same degree of excellence.

He's now in his third term as prime minister, yet despite his growing experience and power, he still seems to find decision-making very difficult, preferring to resort to procrastination and vagueness.

He doesn't leave his mark

Let's look at his record. For years the prime minister has refrained from deciding on central diplomatic issues. For years he has handed down no decisions on existential issues such as equal conscription for all and integrating Haredim and Israeli Arabs into the economy.

Last month the Strategic Planning Department, which the prime minister had the good sense to establish in his previous term, forecast that unless the Haredim and the Arabs and integrated into the economy, Israel faces economic decline. Within the very year to come, 2014, Israel will run a deficit of 3%, which within two decades will increase to a catastrophic 10%.

Ergo, Netanyahu is aware that these are existential economic questions, but because they are also a political minefield, he avoids dealing with them.

In effect, the last time we recall Netanyahu making a significant mark was at the start of his previous term (his second), when he set his socioeconomic order of priorities: He slashed taxes and poured money into transportation infrastructure. After the social-justice demonstrations in the summer of 2011 and after the budget crisis, nothing remains of the tax reduction. Only the infrastructure plan is taking shape, and it is in fact changing the face of the State of Israel. It really is a significant contribution to the economy by Netanyahu, but it is in marginal relative to the length of his tenure and to the dimensions of Israel's socioeconomic problems.

The roads not taken

In the final analysis, on all the really important (and tough) fronts, Netanyahu is nonexistent. He doesn't speak up. He doesn't make decisions.

It is true that compared to those fateful issues, a few more weeks of procrastination about the next governor of the Bank of Israel won't make much difference -- even though unnecessary damage is being caused.

Assuming Netanyahu's out of rabbits, he’ll have to choose an existing candidate. The list is known and procrastinating won't make it better. On the contrary: Waiting will weaken the list because it conveys the prime minister's dissatisfaction with the candidates.

Thus, if and when Netanyahu has to compromise and choose one of them, that person will know he's the choice of last resort; and he will know the public and markets know it too.

That is not the way to start out on the right foot.

Note that the incumbent, Stanley Fischer, announced his resignation several months ago. He acceded to Netanyahu's request to postpone the resignation to the end of June, so that the prime minister would have plenty of time to form a new government, and only then to search for a replacement.

But Netanyahu didn't take advantage of the time he was given. Maybe he still hopes to find the candidate of his dreams in the outside world – not that we have any evidence that he even bothered to search, and doesn't want to compromise on an existing candidate. So the prime minister is continuing to dither, and is wasting his time and ours.

5773 wasn't a walk in the park for Netanyahu. Nor was it for other people.Credit: Amos Biderman

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