Netanyahu to Boycott Awards Ceremony Sponsored by His Office Because of Likud-bashing Laureate

An associate cited a 2015 speech by the actor-director that has likened Likud voters to 'beasts.' The Emet prizes are awarded by the Prime Minister's Office

Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not attend the award ceremony for this year's Emet prizes, whose laureates will include the stage actor and director Oded Kotler. An associate of the prime minister cited Kotler's so-called beasts' speech of two years ago. 

The Emet prizes ("emet" is both Hebrew for "truth" and the initials of art, sciences and culture) are awarded annually under the aegis of the prime minister in five areas: culture and art; exact sciences; humanities; life sciences, and social sciences. Netanyahu informed the General Legal Counsel to the Prime Minister's Office, Shlomit Barnea-Farago, who is also a member of the award committee, of his decision.

Two years ago Kotler gave a speech at an emergency meeting in Jaffa to discuss government threats to culture in Israel, in which he criticized Culture Minister Miri Regev. "Imagine, Regev, our world silenced, without books, without music, without poetry, a world that no one disturbs, that no one disturbs the nation in celebrating 30 [Knesset seats] that are followed by a herd of beasts chewing hay and their cud."

The following day, in the wake of the media firestorm he ignited, Kotler apologized in an interview with Army Radio for what he termed his "poor choice of words," adding: "I wasn't referring to Likud voters, but rather to the entire nation, to the consumers of culture. I regret any intention to injure any right-wing voters."

Last week, after this year's prizes were announced, Kotler told the NRG news website: "I am very happy to receive recognition for my artistic activity, he said, adding that it "suggested that within the problematic sea there are sane, human and objective islands and professional committees that examine matters thoroughly. I feel pride today, and overall, in belonging to the cultural artistic community."

Kotler will share the award for culture and art: acting and directing in the theater, with Arye Yevgeny, the artistic director of the Gesher Theatre. Prof. Jacob Ziv will receive the award for exact sciences: computer and electronic engineering. In humanities: philosophy, the award will go to Prof. David Heyd. The Life Sciences prize will be awarded to cancer researchers Prof. Zelig Eshhar and Prof. Alexander Levitzki, and in Social Sciences: Economics Prof. Assaf Razin will receive the award. The award ceremony is scheduled for September.