Ariel University, located in a West Bank settlement.
Earlier this week Israel strengthened its presence in the West Bank by officially approving the first university over the Green Line. Ariel University is now Israel’s eighth official university.
The move is yet another government nod to the settlers, and included additional government funding for the settler school. From Haaretz:
Sunday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced he was ‘paving the way’ for the establishment of the first university in the West Bank by making use of ‘special funding.’ Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar sent a letter to the chairman of the Judea and Samaria higher education council expressing his support for transforming the Ariel institute into a university.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lent government support to the change in status and called the mayor of Ariel to extend congratulations, “This is a festive day for Ariel and for higher education in Israel.” The rank-and-file rightists were also boosted by well wishes from other members of the government’s ruling coalition including Avigdor Leiberman and Aryeh Eldad, the Knesset member who was photographed a few months ago lounging on a sofa outside of a Palestinian home conquered by settlers. Eldad was quoted in the hard line news site Arutz Sheva:
This is an excellent academic institution and worthy of its new title. Its future is to be a leading research university, and the knowledge that comes forth from it will earn national and international recognition.
But Ariel University is not a leading research center. In fact, its academic record was called into question by the presidents of Israel’s seven other universities, all of whom signed a letter opposing recognition the college. Their dissent was coupled with outrage from the Israeli left. Meretz party head Zahava Gal-On said the school specialized in “occupation studies,” and “has brought Israel to a moral low point by establishing an institution on stolen land which forbids those whose land was stolen to enter through its gates.”
Despite outcry from academics, Ariel University was approved because the higher education committee inside of the country’s 1967 borders have no purview over the West Bank. In 1997 the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education was established by Knesset to outsource oversight from the state’s education committee. The members of this panel are appointed by the Israeli Defense Forces and are authorized to make decisions on accreditation.
Eleven of the panelist voted in favor of Ariel’s accreditation, two opposed, and one–the student union member and activist in the J14 movement–was barred from voting.