Commentary / A Disappointment Named Fischer

If anyone in Israel still had any lingering doubts about the international status of Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, the various recent articles citing him as the leading candidate for president of the World Bank - if and when Paul Wolfowitz is forced to quit - should have removed them.

When The Wall Street Journal dedicated a long, prominent piece to Wolfowitz, it presented Fischer as the most likely person to replace him.

The confused and anxious reactions of Israeli capital markets to news that Fischer may be leaving proves that he indeed is a key international figure, and that Israel is lucky to have him representing our interests around the world. But that is also what makes Fischer's behavior so disappointing: He has continued to make it known that Israel should be grateful for enjoying his services. So grateful, that we should give in to his demands - or otherwise he just might quit and cause serious damage to our economy.

His dominance has dealt him a strong hand, and has forced the cabinet to bend to his wishes. This included his demands with respect to the salaries of the employees of the central bank, even after the bank's management was caught providing false information about employee wages for years.

It is hard to blame Fischer for prefering the presidency of the World Bank, one of the most interesting and important economic posts in the world. But it is impossible not to be disappointed by the fact that this will be yet another opportunity, among many, for Fischer to present his position as governor as being only conditional - until the cabinet accepts his demands. It is indeed conditional, since someone in his position can set conditions.

In spite of the damage that Israel will face if someone such as Fischer leaves, it is still impossible not to say to him: Enough, make a decision - either you're staying or you're not. But don't turn this into just another bargaining chip to use against the State of Israel.