The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities has refused to help select the next chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, after the law was changed to permit someone who is not an academy member to serve in the post.
Under the new law, which was passed by the Knesset recently, the academy has only an advisory role in selecting the Antiquities Authority chairman.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat recently asked for academy president Prof. Ruth Arnon's professional opinion on the minister's candidate to the post, Bar-Ilan University historian Prof. Yvonne Friedman. In response, Arnon announced her refusal to take part in any way in selecting the next chairman of the Antiquities Authority under the new law.
The new law came about after Livnat rejected three candidates put forward by the academy and then proposed a draft law to open the position to senior researchers who were not members of the academy.
In a letter to Livnat, Arnon noted that the academy's ranks include more than a dozen historians and archaeologists as well as many researchers in related fields. "To our regret, the culture minister declined to see the list [of candidates] proposed by the academy and to discuss it with the academy president," Arnon wrote, adding that the amendment was "unnecessary and opens the door to alien considerations that could injure the status of the Antiquities Authority. This measure could create a situation in which the academy would be a passive partner, or a fig leaf, to a choice it viewed as inappropriate."
The Culture and Sports Ministry said in response: "It is very regrettable that members of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, who see themselves as the elite of Israel's academy, now also see themselves as being above the law and are trying to avoid the legal obligation of the academy" to provide the minister with its opinion regarding candidates for chairman of the Antiquities Authority.
The response added that the ministry's attorney had asked the Attorney General's Office for advice on how to proceed. The ministry's attorney, the statement said, has judged that the duty to consult with the academy "is discharged from the moment the ministry issues its request, whether or not the academy gives its advice."
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