parting ways

PMO splits from Genesis Prize, association was “an albatross around the neck” of the annual prize

Benjamin Netanyahu

The Office of the Prime Minister of Israel has pulled out of its partnership with The Genesis Prize, seven years after the organization’s inception, according to a statement released Monday. A source connected to the award told Jewish Insider that the association with the prime minister was “an albatross around the neck” of the $1 million annual prize.

Pushed over the edge: The situation became untenable late last year when Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, the source told JI. “The Genesis Prize said, ‘enough.’” The association with the Prime Minister’s Office, according to the source, “was a problem before, but now people could say, ‘I don’t want to be getting a prize from a criminal.’”

No stranger to controversy: Natalie Portman, who won the prize in 2018, refused to attend the award ceremony in Jerusalem. At the time, she said, “I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu.” In 2019, recipient Robert Kraft was caught up in a prostitution scandal in Florida shortly after being named that year’s winner, which was another embarrassment to the prize committee, said the source, who has signed a confidentiality agreement with the organization. Asked for comment, the Genesis Prize Foundation has yet to reply as of publication time.

Background: The organization was established in 2013 as a private-public partnership between The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF), the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel. The private GPF finances the Prize through a $100 million endowment.

Weighing in: Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of The Genesis Prize advisory committee, told Jewish Insider that the split is a good thing for the prize because “It would be unfortunate if the impression was that you have to be from a certain political party to get it.”

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