Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, chair of the Knesset Ministerial Committee on Legislation, suspended Committee deliberations Sunday after MK Yoav Kish (Likud) blocked a vote on the so-called Ariel University bill.
If passed, the measure would place the institution under the auspices of the Council for Higher Education, which would in turn enable the university to open a faculty for medicine.
Earlier Sunday, Shaked’s Jewish Home party chairman Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he would prevent the Committee from meeting or advancing new legislation until progress is made on the Ariel University bill.
The bill, which was tabled by MK Shuli Mualem Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) and Chairman of the Knesset Education Committee MK Yaakov Margi (Shas), would disband the Judea and Samaria Council of Higher Education – currently the oversight body for Israeli academic institutions over the Green Line – and put the Jerusalem-based Council in charge of all Israeli institutions of higher learning.
Ariel University was established in 1982 as a branch of Bar Ilan University, and became an independent body – the Judea and Samaria University Center – in 2005.
In 2012 the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria granted the center full-fledged university status, sparking celebrations in the settlement community but opposition from many academics around the country.
More recently, some 200 Israeli academics called in December for the Council for Higher Education to reject the so-called Ariel Bill should it be voted into law. The signatories to the letter, most of whom are from Hebrew University, Tel-Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University, said the measure would detract from the status of Israel’s more established universities.
“Annexing Ariel University to Israel would turn the entire Israeli academia into an active partner in the occupation, as it is defined in Europe and in other places in the world.”
“We are calling on you not to be a partner to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s decision and to prevent this move that has grave implications to the status of Israeli academia and academics in universities and colleges that are located within the borders of the State of Israel.”
But supporters of the move to bring Ariel under the purview of the Council for Higher Education blasted the critics, saying the opposition letter was no less than “BDS from within.
“These so-called enlightened academics have joined the ranks of the most vile anti-Israel advocates in the world who use boycotts as a means to destroy the Jewish state,” said Im Tirtzu Chairman Matan Peleg.