Finally, the feuding finance minister and central bank governor have restored relations. Finance Minister Silvan Shalom and Governor David Klein have now met several times, as the two economic leaders of a properly run country should.
We don't know how their meetings went or what was said. But at least they met.
For a while, it seemed the two foes would let bygones be bygones. The finance minister kept his part of the unwritten truce, but the central bank governor just couldn't restrain himself. Last week he bluntly accused the government, in other words the minister, of reducing the economy to the verge of financial crisis.
But should the Finance Ministry bear the blame alone?
True, the government budget has bloated - not because of increased spending, but because revenues shrank.
But the central bank is not blame-free. The sharp interest-rate slash at the end of December 2001 contributed to these developments: Klein's sudden, extreme 2% rate cut at year-end caused a monetary shockwave and spiraling devaluation. Had he implemented moderate interest cuts during the year, as he'd been begged to do, the crisis in 2002 may have been averted. The argument that he only agreed to make the cut under pressure from the government to enter a "package deal" just makes him all the more culpable.
In his address last week, the governor discussed Shalom's bill to amend the law governing the Bank of Israel so that the central bank would be run, not by a single governor, but by a council that would have to follow strictly defined goals.
Although he never said so, Shalom has frozen the bill, which was ready for the first reading, after the rushed devaluation last month that brought the dollar closer than ever to the five-shekel benchmark.
In a state of national panic with international repercussions, it would have been bad politics to start a legislative process that the central bank had repeatedly dubbed as a vicious attempt to curb its independence. But the bill has not been killed, and the governor cannot be sure it ever will be. Which is why he keeps bringing it up: last week he informed the public he had asked for an opinion from the European Central Bank. Next the Chief Rabbi will be asking the Pope for an opinion about legalizing abortion.
At a conference last week Klein maintained: "This bill, as everyone knows, is designed to curb the independence of and neutralize the Bank of Israel." This is a far-reaching accusation, both in terms of content and of wording, unfit for a leader of a national institution. Differences regarding the merits of items in the bill are quite legitimate, but there is no room to accuse the government of malice. With such statements, Klein may well have to part with his title sooner than he had planned.