Member of Israel's Council of Higher Education Resigns Over 'Politicization'

Prof. Yeshayahu Talmon of the Technion protested the conduct of far-right education ministers Naftali Bennett and Rafi Peretz

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Former Education Minister Naftali Bennett and current Education Minister Rafi Peretz speak during a hand-over ceremony in Jerusalem, on June 26, 2019.
Former Education Minister Naftali Bennett and current Education Minister Rafi Peretz speak during a hand-over ceremony in Jerusalem, on June 26, 2019. Credit: Yossi Ifergan / GPO

A member of the Council of Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee has resigned to protest what he called the politicization of the committee responsible for funding the country’s institutions of higher education.

In his resignation letter, Prof. Yeshayahu Talmon of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, protested the conduct of Education Ministers Naftali Bennett and Rafi Peretz, most recently the decision by Peretz not to extend the term of another committee member, Prof. Yossi Shain of Tel Aviv University, which Talmon called, “Grave from an ethical perspective and unwise from a practical perspective.”

“It can’t continue in the current format, in which politicians so blatantly dictate the makeup of the committee and its conduct,” Talmon told Haaretz.

Earlier this week TheMarker reported that Peretz had decided not to renew Shain’s membership on the committee, an exceptional decision given that education ministers routinely extend the term of committee members who request it. Shain chairs various academic committees whose work has yet to be completed.

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Talmon, the longest-serving incumbent member of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, known by its Hebrew acronym Vatat, is considered one of its most valued and thorough members. His second term on the committee was to end in October. In his resignation letter, sent to council chairman Prof. Yaaf Zilbershatz and obtained by Haaretz, Talmon was critical, inter alia, of the former director of the Council of Higher Education, Matanyahu Englman, who is now state comptroller.

“The conduct of the committee has for a while now been accompanied by crises, some of which stemmed from unworthy appointments and the conduct of the outgoing director,” he wrote. Talmon added, “The politicization of Vatat … has never occurred in such a blatant fashion.”

Regarding Shain, Talmon wrote that the TAU professor had “Invested a lot of time and energy in the work of the committees he headed … and sought to complete the assignments. The non-extension of his appointment undermines Vatat’s work and the creation of continuity between old and new members. There has never been a case where a committee member who did his work so well didn’t have his membership extended.”

The Council of Higher Education said, “In 2016 Prof. Yossi Shain was appointed a member of Vatat for a period of three years and he has completed his term in full. Prof. Talmon was meant to complete his term as a Vatat member in two months. We thank Prof. Shain and Prof. Talmon for their many contributions to Israel’s higher education system.”

Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who is chairman of the Council of Higher Education, said that he thanks Prof. Talmon “For his contribution to academia and higher education, and wish him every success in whatever he pursues.”