The disqualification of two judges from the Israel Prize's Literature Committee by the Prime Minister's Office has provoked a strong reaction from the art and literary world.
The two professors who were dismissed are Ariel Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Avner Holtzman of Tel Aviv University.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's associates suggested by way of explanation Thursday that Hirschfeld signed two "anti-establishment" petitions – one in favor of IDF soldiers' refusal to serve in Judea and Samaria and the other against the recognition of Ariel University.
Hirschfeld, for his part, told media he has never publicly spoken about his politics and was at a loss as to why he had been disqualified.
His only assumption was a scathing anti-Netanyahu editorial in Haaretz attacking Netanyahu's use of the Haim Nachman Bialik poem "Al Hashehita" (On the Slaughter) after three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered in June.
Meanwhile, television pundit Yaron London has posited publicly that the move was made to prevent acclaimed author David Grossman, who is both vocally left-wing and a critic of Netanyahu, from receiving the prize.
Netanyahu's associates, however, claim that those involved did not expect the Prime Minister, who is also currently serving as Minister of Education "to make an investigation" into the judges offered to sit on the selection committee.
"Netanyahu is not a rubber stamp of the Israeli Left," a source close to Netanyahu told Arutz Sheva.
"The Israeli Left involved in the Israel Prize naively thought that Netanyahu would approve the appointments without expressing an opinion or checking the candidates," he explained.
"Netanyahu did not want to have a judge on the committee that supports conscientious objectors [to IDF service]. What's so hard to understand?"
The Prime Minister, himself, issued a statement on his Facebook page Wednesday, clarifying his decision.
"The composition of the panel that selects Israel Prize winners must be balanced and faithfully reflect the various streams of Israeli society. However, over the years, more and more radical figures – including anti-Zionists – have been appointed to the panel."
"The Israel Prize belongs to all of Israel. It is out national asset, and it must represent the entire nation," Netanyahu wrote.
Netanyahu's disqualification of these two professors though, sparked a broad response, with the entire literature panel stepping down. Additionally, a number of writers – candidate for the literature prize – immediately withdrew their candidacy.
Actress Yona Elian also announced she was resigning in protest from the Israel Prize's Film Committee.
"I do not want to be part of this miserable fiasco," Elian explained. "The Israel Prize is too important to be involved in this scandal. Appointments made in advance and dismissals made in such a way are contrary to the spirit of art that I know."