The 20-state council of CERN, the Center of European Nuclear Research that operates the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss- French border, voted unanimously on Thursday night to accept Israel as a full member.

CERN is the largest center in the world for the study of atomic particles and is run with an annual budget of 1.246.5 billion Swiss francs (more than NIS 4.9b.). Since October 12, 2011, Israel was an associate member in the pre-stage to membership of CERN, membership that needed to be held for a minimum of 24 months.

Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri said that “scientific interests overcame political ones. Israel is now the first and only country outside Europe to be granted full member status. Beyond the prestige of membership, it will make it possible for Israeli industry to participated in tenders connected with the collider, be represented in the organization’s management, apply for Israeli student scholarships and, of course, integrate Israeli scientists in research groups at the collider.”

The ministry has been behind the effort for full status in the important scientific organization and will be responsible for paying annual fees for membership.

At present, some 40 Israeli scientists divide their time between Israel and CERN in Switzerland. They include Prof. Prof. Giora Mikenberg and Prof, Eilam Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

There are also 22 doctoral students and 22 post-doctoral students from Israel active at CERN.

“This is a real scientific and diplomatic accomplishment that joins a series of similar achievements in recent years,” Peri said.

“Israeli science continues to prove that it has the power to bridge the political disagreements we have with Europe. Israeli membership in the organization will make it possible for our scientists to have access to some of the most advanced infrastructures in the world.”

Rabinovici, who represents Israel in the council, said CERN’s decision was “a welcome recognition of Israeli science and technology. Joining as an member with equal rights results from excellent cooperation among many academic and government factors. The fact that we achieved this warms the heart.”

During the past year, Israel carried out a number of changes demanded of all states that request full membership, such as passing legislation that activates the organization’s protocol and gives legal status to CERN in Israel and special rights to its officials and representatives of other states.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman warmly welcomed the decision, saying it was a “proud day for Israeli science.”

The decision to accept Israel was not only an achievement for Israeli scientists, who have brought honor to the country, but also for the Foreign Ministry, which worked for years to pave the way for Israel’s acceptance by CERN, Liberman said.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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