Finance Committee to Discuss Maor Despite AG Opinion

MKs expected to slam minister's intervention in bank appointments

The Knesset Finance Committee will go ahead with its plans to discuss Bank Leumi CEO Galia Maor's candidacy to become the bank's next board chairman, even though the attorney general determined she is not eligible, committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni said over the weekend.

Gafni decided not to cancel the discussion, which is set for Wednesday.

The discussion was scheduled at the request of MKs Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) and Haim Oron (Meretz), in the wake of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz's intervention in the selection process.

As CEO, Maor is legally required to wait at least two years before she can become chairwoman, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled.

Two weeks ago, after being contacted by good-governance groups, Steinitz reminded Bank Leumi's appointment committee head, Margalit Nof, that Maor was subject to a cooling-off period.

However, politicians are barred from getting involved in bank appointments. The discussion originally was scheduled to have been held last week, but Gafni postponed it because Steinitz was abroad.

"The public discussion in the Finance Committee needs to happen in any case. We'll hold it regardless of the latest developments," he said. "Since I didn't want to make a punching bag out of the finance minister when he couldn't respond, I delayed the discussion.

"On Wednesday, the three relevant regulatory officials are invited to attend our meeting, and we'll hold as professional and relevant a discussion as possible," Gafni said.

These officials are Accountant General Shuki Oren, banks supervisor Roni Hizkiyahu and Israel Securities Authority head Zohar Goshen.

Gafni refused to give his stance on the issue, but committee members including Yachimovich and Oron are expected to criticize Steinitz for intervening.

"Maor thought she was above the law and that the cooling-off period didn't apply to her," Yachimovich said over the weekend.

"The legal adviser proved that he himself doesn't work for the rule of the managers and the rich.

"Bank Leumi is not a monarchy with a single eternal ruler, and Maor cannot be chairwoman. The finance minister's political involvement in the appointment of board members and the board chairman is improper, but no less serious is the striking involvement of the bank's wealthy shareholders, who believe they have the right to choose the person who is supposed to oversee the bank's management."

Maor has the support not only of the appointment committee, which represents the state's stake in the bank, but also of three big shareholders: David Azrieli, Alfred Akirov and Yitzhak Tshuva. The three are among the bank's biggest borrowers.