The Oscar-winning actress was born in Israel

Natalie Portman has defended her decision not to attend a Jewish awards ceremony.

She snubbed the Genesis Prize, a decision which has led to calls for her to be stripped of her Israeli citizenship.

But she has said she treasures her Israeli friends and the country's culture.

In a statement, the 36-year-old said: "Let me speak for myself. 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.

"Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance."

The Oscar-winning actress was born in Israel, but left for the US with her family when she was four-years-old.

Politician Oren Hazan, of the right-wing Likud party, said it was "complete craziness" Portman had been selected for the Genesis Prize and called her "unworthy of any honour in the State of Israel".

Quoted in the Israel National News he went on: "Sweetness can come from strength: I call on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) to rescind Portman's Israeli citizenship."