Natalie Portman’s Evolving Excuse for Refusing Israeli Genesis Prize

Natalie Portman accepts the EMA Ongoing Commitment Award onstage at the Environmental Media Association's 27th Annual EMA Awards / Getty Images for Environmental Media Association

Actress Natalie Portman's initially stated reason for canceling a scheduled trip to Israel to receive the prestigious Genesis Prize was that she didn't want to "appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu," who was also scheduled to appear at the event. But her reason seems to have changed throughout the process.

Portman's decision to skip the event organized in her honor was first announced last Thursday by the Genesis Prize Foundation, which said it was notified by Portman's representative that "she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel" because "recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her." Portman came out on Friday to say the foundation "mischaracterized" her decision.

"I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony," Portman said on Friday. "Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation."

Correspondence between the foundation and Portman obtained by Hadashot news in Israel reveals, however, that Portman's initial reason for concern was the clashes in Gaza.

"Actress Natalie Portman’s representatives originally informed the Genesis Prize Foundation she would not attend the award ceremony over recent events in Gaza—not over her criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," Times of Israel reported.

The Genesis Foundation "went out of its way to accommodate Portman's concerns about Netanyahu," according to JewishInsider, which says the foundation told Portman she wouldn't have to sit with him, wouldn't be presented the award by him, and was free to say anything she wanted during the event. Portman insisted Netanyahu be uninvited from the event, which was "a bridge too far" for the foundation, according to the report.

Portman's representatives reportedly pushed Genesis to say a "scheduling conflict" forced it to cancel the event rather than blame Portman. Her team continued to say scheduling was the main issue following the Genesis announcement on Thursday.