While Israel is trying to fight brain drain and encourage scientists to make aliyah, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry has recently decided to cut its budget for absorbing immigrant scientists.
As a result some 200 olim scientists were fired this weekend by the universities that employ them.
The Absorption Ministry runs a project under which some 500 immigrant scientists are employed in Israeli universities, with the ministry sponsoring a part of their salaries.
However, budget cuts for 2009-2010 have forced the ministry to also cut back on its support of the program.
The scientists recently met with Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and asked for his help. The prime minister assured them that the project will not be affected.
Prof. Zvi Hacohen of Ben Gurion University in Beersheba wrote of the project's importance in a letter to Netanyahu: "These are leading scientists who are involved in various research fields and contribute to Israel's' academic level and achievements in research."
Chairman of the Immigrant Scientists Association of Israel Prof. Moshe Bilinsky told Ynet that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's party Yisrael Beiteinu has not done enough to prevent the move, especially in light of the fact the party holds the Immigrant Absorption portfolio.
"The government needs to understand that not only the scientists who have lost their job, but also Israeli science will be damaged by the decision," he stated.
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry offered the following comment: "The Immigrant Absorption Ministry, headed by Minister Sofa Landver, considers the program as strategically important for the State of Israel. Therefore the utmost efforts have been invested vis-à-vis the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry in a bid to prevent the budget cut.
"The decision-making process, which will also examine ways of increasing the programs' efficiency, is currently underway and we do not intend to carry it out through the media.
"At present the ministry is transferring all the funds that have been approved for the program, and so it is inaccurate to claim that it is the ministry that has cut the project's budget."