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    Blue and White minister reverses Likud decision to stop IDF refusal backer

    Akunis: ‘Harms the most fundamental values of Israeli society.’

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Minister Ofir Akunis: Israeli research has never received support to the extent that it was backed by this ministry during the past term of government. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Minister Ofir Akunis: Israeli research has never received support to the extent that it was backed by this ministry during the past term of government.

    (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

    Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay made a controversial decision on Sunday to authorize the appointment of a scientist who was blocked from taking the post by Shay’s Likud predecessor because she once signed a petition supporting those who refuse to serve in the IDF.

    Former Science and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis slammed Shay’s decision to appoint Yael Amitai, a professor of physiology and cell biology at Ben-Gurion University, as a representative of Israel in the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development.

    “This unfortunate and mistaken decision gives legitimacy to refusing to carry out orders,” Akunis said. “It harms the most fundamental values of Israeli society” 

    Akunis had blocked the appointment of Yael Amitai because in 2002, she signed a petition supporting those who refuse to serve in the IDF, reflecting her personal, left-wing political views. He said Sunday that she had not rescinded her view and therefore was unfit to represent Israel in any international forum.

    “It is unfortunate but not surprising that the new science minister did not stand for basic values that are so consensual,” he said.

    The dispute between Akunis and Shay is another in a series of recent disagreements between Likud and Blue and White following their formation of a government together.

     The High Court of Justice ruled in March 2019 that Akunis cannot veto Amitai’s appointment due to her political views.

    Though Amitai herself served and her children have served in the IDF, the statement she signed was 17 years ago and her scientist role would not play into any of her political views, Akunis vetoed her appointment, saying that her signing the petition was equivalent to the crime of refusal to serve.

    The High Court rejected Akunis’s view, instead adopting Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s position that no crime was committed and that politics could not impact on appointment to bureaucratic roles like a government scientist position.

    However, by 2-1 vote, the High Court did not order Akunis to complete Amitai’s appointment, but rather sent the issue back to him with an instruction that he could not void her appointment on the basis he put forth.



    Yonah Jeremy Bob and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report


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