Netanyahu Backtracks on Israel Prize

PM Netanyahu backtracks on earlier decision to disqualify leftist judges from the Israel Prize's Literature Committee.

Ben Ariel, Canada ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Gili Yaari/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday backtracked on his earlier decision to disqualify two leftist judges from the Israel Prize's Literature Committee.

Netanyahu’s decision came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein advised the Prime Minister against his interfering in the procedures related to the Israel Prize during an election period.

The two professors who were dismissed are Ariel Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Avner Holtzman of Tel Aviv University.

Netanyahu's associates had suggested that the reason for Hirschfeld’s dismissal was his signing of two "anti-establishment" petitions - one in favor of IDF soldiers' refusal to serve in Judea and Samaria and the other against the recognition of Ariel University.

The dismissal of the two resulted in great backlash, and many other judges and candidates for the prize withdrew their association with the prestigious award. This included the entire Literature Committee.

Top author David Grossman announced Thursday he would withdraw from the list of candidates for the literature prize. Another prominent candidate who withdrew is Ruth Dayan, widow of former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who had been a nominee to receive the Lifetime Achievement award.

On Friday, after Netanyahu announced he would comply with the Attorney General’s request and refrain from intervening in the appointment of the Israel Prize judges, the Ministry of Education invited all the judges who were disqualified or resigned to return to the committee.

Hirschfeld and Holtzman have agreed to return to the Literature Committee, as have Professors Nissim Calderon, Nurit Gretz and Efraim Hazan, who had all resigned.

President Reuven Rivlin earlier urged all the judges and candidates who had withdrawn to participate in the process, saying, “The Israel Prize is dear to us all, on the Right and Left.  It is a common denominator for all Israeli society, one of the last that remains, and represents a rare consensus of our spiritual, cultural, literary and scientific depth, and of our values as a people.”

“Through it, the nation cherishes its select sons and daughters, and we must preserve and keep it safe,” he added.

“Now, when the Prime Minister has announced he would work according to the guidance of the Attorney General, I urge the judges and candidates who had withdrawn to return and participate in the Israel Prize process,” said Rivlin.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)