Israel’s culture minister has threatened to pull funding for a major arts festival over performances featuring full-frontal nudity, saying such displays “harm Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”.

Miri Regev told the Israel Festival in a letter that she will withdraw funding for the three-week event opening on Thursday unless the two shows featuring nudity are cancelled.

Festival director Eyal Sher said performances with nudity are an “integral part of the artistic programmes” and will go ahead as planned.

He noted they do not take place in public and that the audience can choose which shows to attend.

Ms Regev, a former military censor turned politician from the nationalist Likud Party, has had a series of clashes with Israel’s liberal cultural establishment since she took up her current post.