Photo Credit: Ben Dori/Flash90
Sheldon Adelson laying the cornerstone for new medical school buildings at Ariel University

The Knesset plenum on Monday night gave its final approval to Amendment 20 to the Law of the Council for Higher Education (CHE), 5768 – 2018, submitted by MKs Shuli Mualem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) and Yaakov Margi (Shas), authorizing the Council for Higher Education to exercise its powers vis-à-vis Israelis in Judea and Samaria. The law passed by a 56 to 35 majority.

The new law will make possible the CHE’s accreditation of Ariel University’s new medical school, in a building that has already been donated $5 million by Sheldon Adelson last summer. The new medical faculty, Israel’s sixth, will be named after Sheldon Adelson and his Israeli-born wife Miriam. The $5 will cover a quarter of the estimated $28.4 million building costs.

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Needless to say, competing universities in Israel were unhappy with Ariel’s decision to offer a medical school to the Jews of Judea and Samaria (as well as to a considerable number of local Arabs).

Former Labor MK Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, who until two years ago served as chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, told The Marker that building a medical school in Ariel would be like building a port in Jerusalem – you can put it up, but no one would show.

In Israel there are some 60 competing institutions of higher education, Trajtenberg argued, which puts a strain on the country’s larger universities to attract local talent. He noted that Tel Aviv University, an academic world power, only has about 1,000 senior faculty members, far fewer than in comparable schools in the US.

The Adelson School of Medicine at Ariel University in Samaria will be the sixth medical school in Israel.

The new law fixes a problem that began as Israeli institutions of higher education began to flourish in the liberated territories, most notably Ariel University in Samaria.

Because of the ambiguity of a succession of Israeli governments regarding the future of Judea and Samaria, two parallel legal systems dealing with the regulation of higher education have been operating all these years: alongside the Council for Higher Education, there was the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, whose powers were drawn from the IDF civil administration.

The duplication resulting from the existence of the two councils for higher education, each operating in its own normative space and geographical area, created considerable difficulties that effectively undermined the regulation of higher education in Israel. This wreaked havoc on government’s ability to forge a uniform policy and a common vision.

As the bill’s accompanying explanatory note said, “The purpose of the proposed law is to extend the scope of the CHE Law to the Judea and Samaria Area, thereby enabling the Israeli authorities to regulate the field of higher education as a whole.”

The total budget of the Council of Higher Education, which is funded by the government, is 6 billion NIS per year, according to Wikipedia. This budget is then transferred to the public universities and colleges. The most important body of the council is the committee for budget and planning, which deals with the division of funding between the various universities and colleges, and Ariel University will now have to get its fair share of the pie.

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