Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton announced Thursday that she has decided to affirm her predecessor's decision to withhold the prestigious Israel Prize from a prominent academic after he called on to halt funding for an Israeli university located in the West Bank.
Prof. Oded Goldreich was nominated for this year’s Israel Prize, the country's highest honor, in mathematics and computer science by a panel of judges.
Former education minister Yoav Gallant, however, blocked the academic from receiving the Prize after Goldreich called on the EU to halt funding for the Ariel University in the West Bank.
The High Court of Justice voided this decision in August and gave Shasha-Biton the option of deciding whether to affirm Gallant's decision.
"Anyone who calls for boycotting an academic institute in Israel is not suitable to receive the prize," Shasha-Biton said in a statement.
"The prime purpose of the Israel Prize is to encourage Israeli art, excellence and research. Calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutes undermines that goal, as it seeks to sever creativity, diversity, and freedom of opinion.
The prize’s mathematics and computer science committee said following Galant's decision that it was dismayed that the award had turned into “a political playing field, and that the regulations of the prize are not being upheld by the education minister.”
It called on the court in August to ensure that Goldreich, a professor of computer science at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, receives the prize. Goldreich has said he does not support the boycott movement against Israel but objects to its policy of building settlements on contested lands.