Bank of Israel still without chief after 2 withdraw

The Bank of Israel was still without a new governor Friday after the second nominee in a week withdrew, the first over shoplifting allegations and the second for unclear reasons.

Leo Leiderman informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday that he would not be taking up the post, the premier's office said.

The statement gave no reason, but public radio said it was linked to TV reports that he regularly consulted an astrologist.

Military radio said it had "nothing to do with astrology," instead citing unspecified "family reasons."

On Monday, Yaakov Frenkel also withdrew his candidacy for the job after old allegations resurfaced that he had tried to shoplift a duty-free item in Hong Kong airport in 2006.

Leiderman, head of mammoth Israeli bank Hapoalim and described by local media as Netanyahu's preferred candidate after Frenkel, was to have take up the job on Sunday.

The prime minister's office expressed Netanyahu's regret at Leiderman's withdrawal.

Some Israeli media had bemoaned the appointment of Leiderman over Karnit Flug, the deputy and acting governor since Stanley Fischer stood down in June.

"The time has come for Netanyahu to appoint Dr Karnit Flug, acting governor of the Bank of Israel, as permanent governor of the central bank," Haaretz newspaper said on Tuesday.

"The prime minister clearly does not want Dr Flug in this senior position. If he did, he would have offered it to her six months ago," it complained.