CERN (AP file photo)
The magnet core of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet, one of the experiments preparing to take data at CERN's Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator, in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by AP file photo
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Israel is expected to become a full member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in two to three years time. After many years of continuous diplomatic efforts, the 20 member states on the CERN board accepted Israel's request to become a candidate for full membership to the most important particle physics research center. The board also accepted requests issued by Slovenia, Serbia, Cyprus and Turkey.

To date, all countries that have been candidates for full membership to CERN have become full members.

Israel currently holds observer status in the prestigious organization, which allows it to participate in research. Dozens of Israeli researchers have benefited from this standing. Israel is also able to participate in the open conferences of the CERN board, but without voting rights.

Beyond the recognition of Israel's scientific infrastructure and capabilities, its acceptance as a full member of CERN will allow it to fully participate in the meetings of the governing body of the organization and its decisions. Moreover, in addition to having to pay membership fees of about $10 million, joining CERN will enable high and medium-tech companies from Israel to participate in tenders opened by the organization.

Israel is currently limited to bid on tenders of maximum 600,000 Swiss Francs.

Membership will also make it easier for young Israeli scientists to work and train in the advanced laboratories of CERN, including its famous particle accelerator. In addition, Israel will be able to join the organization's administration.

"This is a great achievement for Israel that will advance science and enable more Israeli scientists to participate in this international project," said President Shimon Peres, who recently met with CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer during a visit to Israel.

"This is an important day, on which science in the State of Israel has received important international recognition once again for our leading contribution to international research in general, and to CERN in particular," Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said.

The chairman of the Israeli Committee for High Energies, Professor Eliezer Rabinovici, who was central to the efforts to join CERN, said last night that "Israel is on its way to becoming a full member in the organization, which is the diamond in the crown of European science. From our point of view, this is recognition of decades of work by the best Israeli scientists at every institution in Israel - experimental and theoretical scientists - who have contributed a great deal to CERN."

Israel's successful bid to be accepted by CERN was the joint work of many institutions, ministries and official bodies, including the Council for Higher Education, the Foreign Ministry, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and the Science Ministry. Two year ago, an application to upgrade Israel's standing in CERN was filed, following which Israel embarked on a diplomatic campaign to counter countries that expressed reservations or opposed Israel's full membership.