Three of Five Israel Prize Judges to Quit Panel

In a statement, the three said the jury could not possibly render a 'professional and fair decision' now.

Or Kashti
Or Kashti
Prof. Nissim Calderon
Prof. Nissim CalderonCredit: David Bachar
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

Three of the five members of the jury of the Israel Prize for literary research said Monday night they were quitting the panel.

Professors Nissim Calderon, Nurith Gertz and Ephraim Hazan resigned early last week, together with a number of other judges on Israel Prize juries and award candidates, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had three judges removed from the juries.

After the dismissals were reversed, in the wake of intervention by the attorney general, the three said they would return to serve but many of their colleagues and award candidates did not.

In a statement, the three said the jury could not possibly render a “professional and fair decision” now. Jury members Prof. Ziva Ben-Porat and Dr. Uri Hollander never withdrew their resignations.

Like a number of the figures who withdrew from this year’s awards, Calderon, Gertz and Hazan said they would return if a solution could be found to the violation, as a result of the dismissals and resignations, of the prohibition against publishing the names of judges and candidates until the prizes are announced.

In a letter to David Felber, the Education Ministry official who is responsible for the Israel Prize, Calderon, Gertz and Hazan wrote that the ministry’s legal adviser did not respond to their request for qualification on that point.

“We got a message from you that the preparation of the opinion has been delayed. But the damage to protocol cannot be repaired, and no legal guidance regarding the future can correct the situation that has resulted,” the three wrote.

“From the moment the names of the judges were revealed ... any decision we would make would be tainted with bias of one sort or another, political, professional, or personal. The result will be a prize shrouded in intrigues. When the prime minister was forced to stop his political interference in the prize procedures, we saw this as an achievement for democracy, and wanted to do what we could to repair the damage and uphold the status of the Israel Prize. But what has developed over the past three days has proven to us that it’s impossible. If we remain in our positions we will do further damage to the prize, now and in the future.”

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