Establishment of New University in Settlement Stirs Controversy

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A recent preoccupation with the establishment of Ariel College in the West Bank settlement of Ariel by force of an order given by the military, writes Boaz Okon, only goes to show how close Israel is to the dangerous transformation of the occupation into annexation.

There is no such thing as the Ariel University in the State of Israel and no eighth university was set up in Israel on July 17.

Ariel is located in territories where the Israeli law does not apply, not in Israel proper. The body that recommended its establishment [or, more precisely,voted to upgrade the status of the Ariel college to that of a full-fledged university] is the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHE-JS), whose members are appointed by the IDF commander in the territories [and which was created precisely for this purpose]. The authority that is empowered to put the seal of approval on the CHE-JS vote to grant the Ariel College a full university status is the IDF commander in the territories; however, he has no authority to approve the establishment of an Israeli university.

At the most, he can authorize the formation of a university in the territories to cater to the needs of the local population and, if at all, also serve the settlers. Since there are already several universities in the territories, the IDF commander in the territories should carefully examine whether another university is required there to respond to the needs of the local inhabitants.

In Israel proper, a university can be established only under the Council for Higher Education (CHE) Law [1958]. The CHE Law specifies that the CHE is the State body "responsible for all matters concerning higher education in Israel" — in Israel proper, not outside its boundaries. Therefore, the Council for Higher Education in Israel should not have addressed the issue of the Ariel College in the first place, just as it should not, and has no authority to, deal with the issue of the establishment of any university on any other territory outside Israel proper.

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Moreover, the CHE Law explicitly refers to the issue of the territories. It stipulates that the CHE is authorized to recognize an academic degree granted by a higher education institution in the territories; however, such recognition does not turn an institution established by force of an order given by a military commander into an Israeli university.

The intervention of the Israeli Education Minister  [Gideon Sa’ar] and Finance Minister  [Yuval Steinitz] in the matter is thus not only uncalled for, but also outright dangerous. As members of the Israeli government, they are not empowered to take a stand with respect to the education in the occupied territories, nor are they authorized to instruct the IDF commander in the territories what to do and whether or not to establish a university [there].

On this matter, even the report submitted by [retired Supreme Court] Judge Edmund Levy [the "outposts report" released Monday, July 9, by the “outpost committee” headed by Judge Levy, appointed to investigate the legal status of unauthorized West Bank Jewish outposts, which calls for their legalization] cannot be of any help since the CHE Law deals with the educational accreditation of Israeli universities in Israel proper alone.

The preoccupation with the establishment of another university in Israel, when the issue under discussion is in reality the establishment of a university in [the West Bank settlement of] Ariel by force of an order given by the military rather than by virtue of the Israeli Law, only goes to show how close we are to the dangerous transformation of the occupation into annexation, whether explicitly or implicitly. It is actually the danger of transforming Israel into a bi-national state with an underprivileged, discriminated against Palestinian minority, devoid of any civil rights, living under an Israeli regime that is some mutant version of an apartheid regime.

In light of the above, it seems that the decision to establish a university in the territories that is designed to serve the citizens of Israel is quite unlikely. 

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Found in: settlements, occupied territories, occupation, legal authority, jurisdiction, green line, bi-national state, annexation, university, samaria, levy report, judea, israel, idf, education minister. sa’ar, education, council for higher education judea and samaria. finance minister. steinitz, council for higher education, ariel college
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