Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday asserted his support for upgrading to university status the Ariel University Center of Samaria in the West Bank.

Netanyahu was speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "Ariel is an integral part of Israel and will remain as such in any future agreement," he said.

"The establishment of the university serves to strengthen higher education in Israel. Seven universities is not enough. It is important to have another university, and it is important that this will be Ariel," the prime minister added.

The government on Sunday is expected to endorse the upgrade and the appointment of Shai Nitzan to the post of deputy attorney-general for special projects.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar was due to bring forward the Ariel proposal, which calls for all necessary steps to be taken to execute the July decision by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria for the upgrade, saying it is of “national importance.”

The upgrade would bring the number of the country’s accredited universities to eight. Sa’ar said an eighth university “would enhance Israel’s education system.”

There is a petition against the upgrade pending before the High Court of Justice.

Given that the matter is now a legal issue, a decision by the government would be non-binding and would not in and of itself change the institution’s status.

However, the government is expected to issue a binding decision on a request by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman with regard to Nitzan.

Right-wing politicians oppose the appointment, saying Nitzan acted against settlers when he headed the ministry’s criminal law division for Judea and Samaria.

The head of Habayit Hayehudi, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, said Saturday night that he would vote against the appointment.

“There is a crisis of trust between the state attorney’s office and the settlers,” Herschkowitz said. “Appointing Nitzan to deal with sensitive matters will only deepen this crisis.”

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) has called on cabinet ministers to oppose the appointment. MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is collecting signatures to bring the issue of Nitzan’s appointment to the Knesset, warning that it would introduce a “Trojan horse” into the attorney-general’s office and strengthen the imposition of political stances on the Likud government.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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