Yoav Gallant’s final chord as education minister is very symbolic of the rot and degeneration that spread during the years of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule. On Friday, Gallant informed Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit that he had made his final decision not to grant the Israel Prize in computer science to Prof. Oded Goldreich of the Weizmann Institute.
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“Prof. Goldreich does not at this time meet the condition of a contribution to Israel, because his contribution through his research is offset by his energetic action to boycott Israeli research institutions – actions carried out consistently and intentionally and that have caused real damage and continue to damage Israeli academia,” Gallant wrote to Mendelblit, in the authoritative tone of someone on his first day in office, not his last, on his way to the opposition.
The words Gallant uses to describe Goldreich depict him as an enemy of the state. They withhold from him the prize for his contribution to mathematics and computer sciences, and the honor and the recognition that go with it. But more than the words that describe Goldreich, they fit the McCarthyist atmosphere of political persecution of opponents of the occupation that has prevailed in Israel in recent years under Netanyahu’s reckless leadership.
We hope that the “government of change” will be sworn in on Sunday as planned, marking the end of this chapter in the country’s history. Goldreich did not fail the test of his contribution to the country. On the contrary, his academic work has brought Israel honor, which has served more than once as a fig leaf for shameful policies of the Netanyahu government. The failures are Gallant and the rest of the Netanyahu gang, who sowed the destruction that the government of change was established in an attempt to rebuild.
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Formally, the attorney general will now have to decide whether to defend Gallant’s decision in the High Court of Justice, where a hearing will be held on the Israel Prize committee members’ petition against Gallant. Indeed, in recent years, under an indicted prime minister, Mendelblit unwillingly served as the only one to turn to in the attempt to stop the government’s anti-democratic moves. Starting Monday, if there are no last-minute surprises, the ministers will once again be the ones to turn to with demands to correct what need correcting.
It will be up to Education Minister-designate Yifat Shasha-Biton to repair the damage left by Gallant. She must bring the essential distinction between the state and the government back to the public discourse. She must also make clear that the new government will stop persecuting those who don’t support its policies and rewarding only those who hold the “correct” opinions – including opposition to the occupation and the settlements – without such opinions being considered disloyal or a desire to harm it. The best way to convey this message is to reverse Gallant’s decision.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.