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Settlement University Approved

A new school in Ariel is funded by the state, even though it doesn’t fall under Israeli jurisdiction

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On Tuesday, in a move that undermined Israel’s official Council for Higher Education, the college in Ariel, the West Bank’s largest Jewish settlement, was officially recognized as a university. It will become the eighth Israeli university, and the first in the occupied Palestinian territories. Even though Ariel does not fall under Israeli jurisdiction, the new university will nonetheless receive state funding.

The decision comes after a prolonged public process. Earlier this month, the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee released a report arguing that given the relatively small number of Israeli students and the overall scarcity of resources, there was no reason to open another university. Unlike colleges, which are largely private institutions, universities in Israel are publicly funded. There are currently only seven universities in Israel, which enjoy a budget of NIS 4.4 billion (approximately $1 billion).

Becoming a university is something that the college in Ariel was determined to achieve. Founded in 1982, it has since mushroomed, with more than 13,000 students currently enrolled. Rather than wait for official recognition, the school opted to rename itself the Ariel University Center in Samaria in 2007. The move did not sit well with the Council for Higher Education, which vowed to take action.

But there was little the council could do: Because Israeli law doesn’t apply in the West Bank—to do so would mean annexation, which would require awarding Israeli citizenship to nearly 2.5 million Palestinians—all civilian affairs in the region are overseen by the Israel Defense Forces. In 1997, after the council refused to supervise a number of nascent Jewish academic institutions established east of the Green Line, a new body was formed, called the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHEJS). Its members are appointed by the army.

The decision on whether or not to recognize the college in Ariel as a university officially lies with the IDF, but the army leaves all such matters with the CHEJS. Still, according to a 1958 law designed to ensure that decisions concerning higher education will be made with nothing but academic considerations in mind, all budgetary considerations for publicly funded institutions are at the sole discretion of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee.

In defiance of the law, Minister of Education Gideon Saar and Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz announced earlier this week that they would overrule the recommendation of the Planning and Budgeting Committee by supporting the new university with a two-year grant of NIS 50 million (approximately $12.5 million).

The move infuriated the head of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg. In a letter to the chairman of the CHEJS, Prof. Amos Altschuler, Trachtenberg criticized the CHEJS’s process of deliberations, arguing that no due diligence was done and that the documents considered were mainly self-evaluations filled out by Ariel administration officials.

“We mustn’t allow this discussion to revolve around political and ideological lines,” Trachtenberg wrote. “That would deliver a critical blow to academia.”

The presidents of all seven Israeli universities joined Trachtenberg’s criticism. In a letter delivered this morning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they called the decision to recognize Ariel as a university “a political decision that comes at a heavy price,” and a “foretold disaster that will badly hurt and crush higher education in Israel.”

The university presidents called on Netanyahu to intervene and reject the decision, a move that is highly unlikely.


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Moshan says:

Everyone will slam me for this, but just annex the whole thing.
There’s no way that the settlements will be removed. Ariel is deep inside Judea and Samaria and it’s one of the largest settlements.

Everybody is pretending that the 2SS is possible. It isn’t, at least not within Israel’s biblical borders.

We’re in a pickle. We’ve tried to outsmart the world, by thinking that given enough time and given the fake peace process we can settle so much that the facts on the ground will change.

And yes, that happened. But there are still millions of Arabs in Judea and Samaria. And what of them? Ethnic cleansing? I don’t know the answer what to do. But I do know it’s always – always – better to seize the initiative than to wait for the mostly hostile world to decide for us.

Given our history, that hasn’t usually panned out so well.
But pretending that the 2SS will happen or that the moribound ‘peace process’ will move ahead is a joke and self-delusion. Bury it.

    Except the fact that most Israelis know that this will completely change the demographics of Israel. Adding 2 million Arabs from the West Bank (and 1.5 million from Gaza, if that is also your intention) into Israel’s population, with their significantly higher birth rates than Israelis, will soon become the majority of the population.

transtrist says:

We can annex the “C zone”, where most settlements lie, give up certain Arab areas in East Jerusalem simultaneously and the demographic balance won’t suffer.

julis123 says:

You might want to mention that actually many Palestinians study there also and classifying it as a university would benefit them

PhillipNagle says:

It is clearly time to start annexing portions of Judea and Samaria. The arabs have shown over and over again that they have no untention of entering into a permanent peace agreement with Israel (remember Hamas won the last election) and their idea of “occupied territory” includes all of the old British paletine mandate. It is time for Israel to act unilaterally.

Judea and Samaria are Israel, Jordan is Palestine. To adopt the enemy’s propaganda is fruitless and pushes peace further away, appeasement never works.

herbcaen says:

Hebrew U and Ben Gurion U (except for the hard sciences and medical schools) are already defacto Palestinian universities, where the Zionist narrative is banned. Ariel University will be a useful counterbalance to these anti-Israel universities within 1967 Israel

baltasar almudárriz says:

So you take over their land, expel them and then get indignant when the natives decide to retaliate? You guys are the ones that encroached upon their territory – and please don’t use some old Babylonian tales to justify some kind of absentee landlord status.

Faival44 says:

If the Arabs have a problem with Israeli settlement on land they want, let them make peace, accept defined borders, and get on with their lives. Incessant whining by the world’s most pampered welfare terrorists has gotten pretty stale.

    Crossed says:

    If the Arabs have a problem?
    Do you zionists even listen to the garbage you spew?
    israel is an OCCUPIER. The Arabs have the right to liberate their land. This is a universal human right.
    It is israel that must pull back its stolen borders and allow a Palestinian state to flourish.
    To steal land, expel the native people, and constantly bombard them is Terrorism. Zionism is a disease of the mind.


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Settlement University Approved

A new school in Ariel is funded by the state, even though it doesn’t fall under Israeli jurisdiction

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