Ha’aretz is reporting that the Israel Prize for Literature may not be granted in 2015, ‘after the entire judges panel resigned this week to protest efforts by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in its composition’ following Netanyahu’s veto of two candidates for being insufficiently Zionist.

It is the Education Ministry that puts together the judges’ panels, and the appointments are formally signed by the education minister: a post Netanyahu has held since December 2014, when former minister Shay Piron resigned. An Education Ministry source told Ha’aretz ‘nobody dreamed there could be any substantive reason to disqualify two of Israel’s leading literature scholars.’

It should be understood that the Israel Prize – awarded in four areas, including literature – has always been political, and frequently controversial: it is presented annually, on Israeli Independence Day (or the Nakba for Palestinians), in a state ceremony in Jerusalem (note the symbolism; the capital is Tel Aviv), in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Knesset (Israeli parliament), and the Supreme Court President.

Netanyahu defended his purge of candidates, writing on Facebook, ‘Over the years, more and more radical figures, including anti-Zionists … have been appointed to the panel along with too few authentic representatives of other parts of the nation.’

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