Irit Kaplan. Eyal Toueg. 19/06/2006
Israeli actress Irit Kaplan Photo by Eyal Toueg
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Four of the nearly 60 Israeli theater professionals who had signed a petition pledging they would not participate in performances staged in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, decided to withdraw their signatures and announced Sunday that they would not necessarily avoid performing there.

This announcement follows a weekend of heated debates between the Signatories, Knesset members and settlement leaders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also among those who responded to the petition. "Israel is the target of an international delegitimization campaign – the last thing the state needs to do is fund bodies that are promoting boycotts from within," Netanyahu told cabinet ministers at a weekly meeting Sunday.

The petition was issued after a report by Haaretz, that several of Israel's leading theater companies, including the Habima National Theater, the Cameri Theater, the Be'er Sheva Theater and Jerusalem's Khan Theater, were planning to perform at a new cultural center in Ariel.

Irit Kaplan, one of the actors who withdrew their signature, told Haaretz that she was not completely at peace with this decision. "However, I had second thoughts regarding the petition, because of the fact that the theater is a public institution, to which I am committed," said Kaplan.

Dror Keren, another signatory who reversed his decision, explained his position in a letter addressed to the director of the Cameri Theater.

"I have never signed any document calling for a boycott, and never will. Boycotts are juvenile, and I do not believe in this kind of behavior," Keren wrote.

"I can't accept the approach that separates politics and art… that kind of theater is called 'puppet theater'. I am not a politician, but my actions as an artist have political significance."

"However, it is not my job to punish anyone through sanctions or boycott. I have no resentment towards the people of Ariel. I oppose boycotting, silencing others, or any sort of violence," Keren explained.