Limor Livnat
Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat Photo by Michal Pat'el
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Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat announced Monday that she intended to dedicate a Minister's Award to encourage theater, art works and films dealing with the theme of Zionism, as part of the ministry's battle against the public "delegitimization" of the arts center built in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

In September, a group of theater actors and public figures signed a petition saying they would not perform in the new Ariel center as a protest of Israel's settlement policies. The protest has been supported by over 150 academics who signed the petition.

The Ariel arts center planned a grand opening for Monday evening, during which the Be'er Sheva theatre company was to perform and Livnat was expected to speak. The center's administration announced earlier on Monday that all tickets for the opening performance had been sold out.

On Sunday, Livnat said that the "recycled attempt of a handfull of people to boycott the people of Ariel is wrong." She added that "the residents of Ariel are equal citizens of Israel and they are entitled to cultural rights just like anyone else in the country."

Meanwhile, Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, announced that his party decided to act against theater personnel who are boycotting the new arts center, by working to stop state funding channeled to the artists.

Lieberman and other Yisrael Beiteinu ministers will act against the boycotting artists by halting direct funding of their travel expenses for shows abroad and by preventing their appearances before state bodies.