Regev to Israeli Cultural Institutions: I Decide Who Gets the Money

Israel's new culture minister has threatened to cut state funding to the Elmina Theater in Jaffa; her Likud peer Gila Gamliel slams the threat as unnecessarily punishing children.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev speaking at the Cinema South International Film Festival, at Sapir Academic College, June 9, 2015.
Yehuda Peretz

Israel’s new Culture Minister Miri Regev's position on state funding for cultural bodies continued to raise hackles Thursday.  Her peer from the Likud party, Minister for Gender and Minority Equality Gila Gamliel slammed Regev's threat to cut funding for the Elmina Theater in Jaffa, saying that her threat harms the principle of equality.

Regev met with representatives of Israeli cultural institutions on Thursday evening. According to Channel 10, she told those present: "We got 30 Knesset seats, you got a total of 20." Responding to the question "who is this you" that she was referring to, Regev said, "We know that the left attributes culture to itself, we don't need to get confused about who the public is, and who [the public] chose."

Channel 10 also reported that Regev made clear to the participants, which included Noam Semel, the general director of the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv, that she is the person who will choose who gets state arts funding. "I decide the criteria, I can decide which institutions get money, that all the money goes only to the periphery and Judea and Samaria," she said. "The government doesn't have to support culture. I can decide where the money goes. The artists will not dictate to me. If we agree on these principles, you will have partners, otherwise we have a problem."

Regev threatened on Wednesday to cut government funding to the Elmina Theater in Jaffa after its leader Norman Issa refused to perform in the Haifa Theater’s play “Boomerang” in a Jordan Valley settlement. While the culture minister backtracked later in the day, Gamliel objected to Regev's statements.

"Even raising the possibility of punishing Arab and Jewish children by removing the Culture Ministry's support for the theater is an unacceptable decision. What have the children done?" Gamliel told Haaretz.

"This is clearly not a cultural decision," Gamliel said. "It's an unacceptable declaration that harms the principle of equality."

Gamliel continued to criticize Regev, saying that "there's no need to verbally express these ideas, let alone consider them or apply them in practice."

"Potentially cutting the budget for the Elmina makes it impossible to raise the public discourse," Gamliel continued, adding that "I hope these matters are internalized by the Culture Ministry."

Gamliel added that the Elmina is one of the most significant cultural institutions for Arab children, which works to bring them closer to Israeli culture.