Despite the wishes of several leftist politicians and academics to the contrary, the transition of Ariel University Center to Israel’s eighth university has been approved.
The Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria took an historic decision Tuesday evening, voting 11:2 to make the Ariel University Center of Samaria (AUCS) into a full-fledged university.
The decision could make international waves because of its location.
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman welcomed the decision and called it an important step toward strengthening Israeli academia as well as the settlements. “This… will mark a strong contribution not only for students, who will enjoy another institution, but also for research,” he said.
Lieberman chalked up the decision as a victory for Yisrael Beiteinu, which “voted in favor of establishing a university in Ariel as a condition for founding the government.”
Education Minister Gideon Saar welcomed the council’s decision. The council “decided not to give into pressure and fear and made the right decision, professional and to the point,” Saar said, adding that the decision served the interests of the entire higher education system in Israel.
However, elsewhere the responses were not so positive. “This is a political decision,” a statement on behalf of the University Presidents Association said. “The prime minister needs to make a decision to prevent a catastrophe for Israel’s higher education system.”
Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie said, “This is a dark day for Israeli academia.”
Oh my goodness! Such dire predictions! You would think that a university had been closed down rather than a new one recognized. As for the decision being political, it may well be so, but so is the opposition to the decision. Politics is everywhere in Israel.
Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the planning and budget committee, said that the matter is now in the hands of the military commander.
A senior official in the academia said, “I’m having trouble imagining a situation where a general signs the authorization for the establishment of a university. It’s bizarre, you won’t find this in the toughest dictatorships.”
Perhaps if Israel would be allowed to annex Judea and Samaria, including Ariel, then the area would not be under military rule and this decision wouldn’t need the approval of the military commanders. Perhaps these academics need to address their concerns to the left side of Israeli politics.
[...]Prof. Dan Meyerstein, president of the AUCS, said in response to the letter that he thought that the “university presidents were motivated by political considerations and personal interests. They are not objective and certainly there is no reason to consider their opinion on this issue.”
National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli stormed out of the council meeting after a letter signed by most of the student associations in Israel was presented, supporting the recognition of the AUCS as a regular university. Shmuli said that presenting the letter was a political act to which he would not be a part.
Shmuli did not explain why a letter from the students’ unions was a political act. It sounds to me like a socially aware act, whereas his own opposition sounds very political to me.
The Times of Israel adds:
The school, located in the settlement of the same name, has operated under the neither-here-nor-there status of “university center” since 2007, but has lobbied for an upgrade to university, which would give it a share of the state’s budget.
The move is supported by right-wing groups, which see it as a way for Israel to strengthen its foothold on the territory. Much of the Israeli left opposes the upgrade, saying granting Ariel university status will deepen Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and damage Israel’s standing internationally.
Among university heads there was strong opposition to establishing another university in Israel. Those against the idea said it would influence academic budgeting, adding that the physical location of the campus makes it a potential troublemaker in international opinion.
I happen to disagree. I think if Israel shows some self-respect it might receive some respect back from the world. It is when Israel cowers and gives in to international opinion that our international standing plummets.
The Jerusalem Post brings some more political opinions about the university decision:
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), who serves as head of the Knesset Lobby for Higher Education, praised the education and finance ministers and the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHE-JS) for “failing to give in to the brutal pressure of the university heads.”
“The university heads have always desired to keep the club closed, but today justice has been done in a historic process that transformed Ariel into an Israeli university,” Elkin said.
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) and MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), co-heads of the Knesset committee for granting Ariel university status, welcomed the CHE-JS decision.
Miller said the decision “strengthened Israeli academia and gave a crushing response to those who wanted to thwart AUC’s development.”
The Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker added that Ariel University Center’s management worked hard to achieve university status, calling the educational institution an “academic lighthouse” that would “lead the world of academia in research and development.”
Hotovely said the decision to establish a new university would create jobs and high standards for Israeli researchers, which would maintain the country’s strong position in world academia.
MK Danny Danon (Likud), who is also a member of the Knesset’s Education Committee, dubbed the move a “triumph for the settlements over the Left.”
“The new university combined with the Levy report [on the settlements] vindicates the settlement enterprise, which will grow international recognition of Judea and Samaria as an inalienable part of Israel,” he said, adding that university heads should “concentrate on their studies and get out of politics.”
MK Amir Peretz (Labor) said the decision to make AUC a university reflected a policy of favoring the West Bank over the Israeli periphery.
“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s time in office will be remembered as a time of abandoning the periphery and the weak in favor of the settlers and the haredi population,” Peretz said, adding that the decision weakened the rest of the universities and colleges and would hurt Israel’s international standing.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) attacked the move as “a negative message to the Palestinians and the Arab world and an overriding of academic considerations in order to establish the settlement project.
If Henin does not object to the existence of any Palestinian universities he has no basis to object to Ariel University. All are built on disputed territory to which Israel has the primary legal claim.
Earlier on Tuesday, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On warned that the move to make AUC a university would lead to an academic boycott of Israel.
Maintaining her academic theme, Gal-On added, “The CHE-JS was appointed by the defense minister who specializes in the science of occupation, which has brought Israel to the immorality of creating an institution on stolen land, which does not let those it dispossessed through its gates.”
What utter piffle. Stolen land, occupation… Gal-On should read up on the Levy Commission’s report on the status of the settlements.
As for not letting “those it dispossessed through its gates”, Gal-On needs to get an education about Ariel’s student population. Last year 600 Arab students began their academic year at Ariel. Her emotional appeal for justice is belied by her distortion of the facts.
Gal-On needs an urgent course in modern Israeli history. Perhaps she should go and study in Ariel. I hear they have excellent teachers.