Thou Shall Not Lie When Running for Public Office

Due to the courage of reporters, Israel has been spared the shame of appointing a problematic person such as Jacob Frenkel to as senior a post as the Bank of Israel governor.

Even if it’s not entirely clear whether or not Jacob Frenkel in fact stole, or intended to steal, a garment bag at the Hong Kong airport, one thing is clear beyond the shadow of a doubt: The former Bank of Israel governor and former second-term candidate got tangled up in lies.

Once this fact became clear, gratitude was due to the reporters who brought the case to light. They prevented a person who does not tell the truth from becoming the next governor of the Bank of Israel. Those who complained about “unwarranted persecution” and “drinking the blood” of candidates for senior public office should now admit that thanks to this courageous disclosure, we have been spared the shame of appointing a problematic person such as Frenkel to a senior post.

The letter sent by Josephine Chan, spokeswoman of the Hong Kong Department of Justice, in response to an inquiry from Haaretz correspondent Amir Oren refuted all of Frenkel’s false, tortured explanations. It’s now clear that he wasn’t “detained for standing in the wrong line,” as per his attempt to whitewash the incident from seven years ago; that it didn’t end in “nothing” and that the Hong Kong authorities didn’t “express their regret and their appreciation” of Frenkel for declining to sue them for compensation, as per his later, but equally untrue, version of events.

Frenkel’s claim that he was not suspected of shoplifting also turned out to be a lie: Chan’s letter makes it clear that he was arrested for shoplifting, arraigned in court and charged with theft; the charges were dropped about two months later.

Frenkel failed to report any of this to the Turkel committee, which vets senior civil service appointments, and later lied to the media by inventing a plethora of excuses and fairy tales about what happened in the duty-free shop on November 19, 2006. Had he told the truth, he would have avoided the subsequent shame and humiliation, and he might even have gotten the coveted job.

The lesson of this affair must be learned not only by Frenkel, but also by everyone involved in vetting candidates for senior public office, and the entire public as well. It’s good that Frenkel’s past was subjected to minute scrutiny, and it’s good that his lies were exposed. Frenkel could never have been appointed to the post, because the governor of the Bank of Israel must be someone who tells the truth.

The scrutiny and exposure that Frenkel was subjected to must be applied to every candidate. The cries of revulsion at his “persecution” have no place in any properly run country.