Israel Prize for Literature Studies Will Not Be Awarded Due to Netanyahu's Interference

Following uproar over PM’s intervention in makeup of the judging committee, all panel members resigned.

Moshe Milner / GPO

The Israel Prize for Literature Studies will not be awarded this year, an attorney employed by the State Prosecutor's Office has admitted on Monday. The attorney is representing the state before the High Court of Justice regarding the petition submitted by several artists.

The reason that the prize will not be awarded this year has to do with the technical circumstances that resulted from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intervention in the makeup of the judging committee for the prize. Since all the committee members resigned in protest at the prime minister’s intervention, a new committee had to be appointed. But the appointment of a new committee requires the education minister’s approval, and the temporary appointment of Netanyahu as education minister expired.

Since there is no education minister and, therefore, no way to appoint a new committee, the prize will not be awarded.

The petition was submitted by several artists, among them film director Nissim Dayan, who resigned from judges’ committee for the Israel Prize for Cinema, and literary critic Ran Yagil. The petitioners approached the High Court following the uproar that took place when Haaretz broke the story of Netanyahu’s intervention in the makeup of the prize committees.

After appointing a committee and dismissing Education Minister Shay Piron, Netanyahu sought to change the makeup of the prize’s literature committee. He dismissed literature scholars Avner Holzman and Ariel Hirschfeld, which led to the resignation of another member of the judging panel, writer Gail Hareven.

Producer Haim Sharir, a member of the judging committee for the cinema category, announced his resignation from the committee in turn, and many other intellectuals, admired professionals and scholars either announced their resignations or withdrew their candidacy for the prize, such as Haim Be’er, David Grossman, Sami Michael, Yigal Schwartz, Renen Schorr and Ruth Dayan.

Following this, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein instructed Netanyahu to refrain from intervening due to the procedures' proximity to the upcoming elections. Netanyahu then retracted his disqualification of the judges, but they refused to return to their positions.