Ariel University’s accreditation as a full fledged institution of higher
learning is legal ruled the High Court of Justice on Tuesday, as it rejected a
petition by Israel’s Council for Higher Education against the
“We’re not surprised because there was no basis to the petition,”
Ariel University said in response to the court’s ruling.
institution, the only one of its kind in Judea and Samaria, was founded in 1982
as a branch of Bar-Ilan University, but became an independent college in 2004,
when it sought university status.
Its location in the West Bank, an area
of the country under IDF military and civilian rule, meant that it fell outside
the auspices of the CHE , which is the only organization authorized to bestow
university accreditation on an academic institution.
Ariel University was
accredited instead, in July 2012, by the Council for Higher Education in Judea
and Samaria. The government approved the upgrade in December 2012.
international community, the Palestinians and leftwing organizations criticized
the move as a political ploy to further solidify Israel’s presence in the West
Separately, the CHE also opposed the move saying it said had no
academic basis, since the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria did
not have the authority to accredit an institution, and that Israel didn’t need
an eighth university.
The CHE has last accredited a university in
In 2012 CHE turned to the High Court, along with many university
presidents, which represented their last option to block the
Peace Now separately signed onto the petition.
court on Tuesday said that the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria
was empowered to accredit Ariel University, even though it noted that the
complex reality that necessitated the presence of two similar groups, both
empowered with accreditation, did present complications.
were involved in the accreditation lauded the High Court’s decision in favor of
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz helped secure
funding for the university as the former finance minister in Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s second government.
Steinitz said he felt the court
laid to rest all criticism of the accreditation.
“I’m certain that Ariel
University will contribute to higher education in Israel and to the settlement
enterprise in Samaria and in the city of Ariel,” said Steinitz.
Minister Gideon Sa’ar, formerly the education minister, said it was unfortunate
that the CHE and many university presidents needed a court judgment to accept
what was a just and worthy process.
The High Court, in its ruling, did
not accept the CHE ’s request to debate its central contention that the criteria
used for accreditation was insufficient.
More specifically it rejected
the presidents’ wishes to debate whether comparing Ariel University only to the
goals it set for itself and not to other universities in Israel or
internationally (as the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria did)
was less appropriate than wresting with the question of whether Ariel University
merits being a full-fledged university.
The court also rejected
arguments, thrown into the mix after the controversy erupted, that a new
university would endanger funding for the whole university system and noted
Ariel University’s commitment to keep costs down in the upcoming
The court likewise rejected the claims that the Altshuler
Committee, which advised on the issue, had a conflict of interest and claims
that OC Central Command Maj.-Gen.
Nitzan Alon had abandoned his
independent judgment in approving Ariel University’s change of
Next, the court said that the Finance Ministry had done nothing
wrong by separating Ariel University’s new funding from the regular university
budget process, an action it said it took to avoid delays, as such separation
occurs not infrequently in the budgetary process.
Responding to the
complaint that the whole process had bulldozed over the council’s advisory role,
the court said the Council of Higher Education had, to some extent, reduced its
advisory role on the issue by delaying its recommendation against Ariel
University for too long.
In earlier proceedings, the state said that the
1981 law governing the issue clearly empowered the Council of Higher Education
of Judea and Samaria – which announced the upgrade in September – to, with the
military commander’s approval, recognize institutions as universities,
regardless of opposition by other parties.
The state also argued that the
presidents offered no evidence that allowing the decision to go through before
they could file another petition would create an “irreversible” situation and
would cause confusion on issues of coordination and authority in higher
education. The state said that no part of the process had been done in an
underhanded or secretive fashion, as the university presidents