Four heads of university archaeological institutes have asked Culture Minister Limor Livnat to cancel the amendment she is sponsoring to the Antiquities Authority Law, which critics say aims to block left-leaning professionals from key positions in the authority.

The current law stipulates that the chairman of the Antiquities Authority Council, the governing body of the authority, must be a scientist who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and that there must also be two other members of the council who are affiliated with one of the country's five universities.

Under the proposal, Livnat could appoint as chairman "a leading scientist in the field of history or archaeology, after consulting with the National Academy of Sciences."

The legislation's explanatory notes state: "Current law requires the minister to choose from a limited number of candidates, while there are actually many worthy candidates for the position who are not members of Israel's National Academy of Sciences."

Political agenda?

Critics say the amendment is meant to enable Livnat to appoint right-leaning archaeolgists to the council, which advises both the Antiquities Authority and the responsible minister on archaeological matters.

The letter to Livnat was signed by Prof. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University; Prof. Zeev Weiss of the Hebrew University; Dr. Haim Goldfus of Ben-Gurion University and Prof. Arthur Segal of the University of Haifa.

"We see it as part of our scientific and public role to uphold the quality of research and teaching in the field and to maintain the scientific, academic and public standing of archaeological research in the State of Israel," they wrote.

Livnat plans to meet with the signatories today. Her office said that legislation was meant to prevent the minister's hands being tied in the making of appointments.