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Strong Objections to Fischer’s ’Political’ Currency

Stanley Fischer’s political agenda calls for Rabin and Begin’s pictures to grace Israeli currency, but he never asked Begin’s family. It objects.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/20/2010, 3:41 PM / Last Update: 12/20/2010, 3:53 PM

Israel News photo: Flash 90

Menachem Begin’s son Benny - a Minister Without Portfolio in Israel's government - is fighting an attempt by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer to place his father’s picture on Israeli currency notes. Fischer also wants former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's portrait on a currency note.

Fischer announced Sunday that he thinks the shekel bills should note what he called the historical importance of two political leaders who signed peace agreements. Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and Rabin signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in 1995 at a White House ceremony hosted by then-President Bill Clinton.

However, the Begin family repeated on Monday its previous opposition to the idea. Minister Benny Begin explained to Globes that he did not warn Fischer because “nobody has spoken to me.”

Fischer also wants shekel bills to portray two people from the literary field: Nobel Prize winner Shai Agnon, who already is pictured on a bill, and the poet known by her first name Rachel.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also opposes Fischer's political agenda, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apparently has approved the proposal, which must pass a Cabinet vote before being implemented. The new pictures are to become a part of the public’s wallets in 2012.

Fischer’s recommendations came after a “currency design” committee, headed by retired High Court Justice Yaakov Turkel, recommended that story writer Leah Goldberg be one of the personalities to be portrayed on the denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekels.

Last year, Kadima Knesset Member Dalia Itzik introduced a legislative bill stating that currencies must depict “women and men that contributed significantly to society and the state, including intellectuals, Nobel Prize winners and leaders.”

Fischer ran into trouble last year when he proposed that the currency notes be replaced with pictures of Rabin, Begin, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, and Zionist leader Theodore Herzl.

Fischer was enticed by Netanyahu to move to Israel and become a citizen in order to be eligible to take over the job as governor of the Central Bank. Netanyahu has been widely credited for having creating the conditions in the beginning of the decade for Israel’s unprecedented economic growth and stability when he was Finance Minister in the Sharon government.

Fischer took the helm and has brought universal respect for the Bank, whose policies helped Israel weather the global financial disaster two years ago and retain stability and growth.

However, his politics are far from those of Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has indicated that Israel should do whatever it can to establish the Palestinian Authority as a new Arab country. Fischer also was once the boss of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who worked as an economist at the International Monetary Fund, where Fischer was the chief economist.

Among previous statements, Fischer has said, “I generally prefer to stand by the agreements we have signed with them [the Palestinian Authority]. So that is at least one rationale for transferring the money [of taxes collected by Israel for the PA]. There are all kinds of other rationales, but that is my starting point.”