Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at a ceremony for the medical school in 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The future of Israeli healthcare took a blow on Thursday when the Council for Higher Education voted against the establishment of a medical school at Ariel University.
“This was to be an essential and critical component in increasing the number of medical students in Israel,” said Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman regarding the decision.
According to the Israel Medical Association, Israel faces a severe healthcare crisis, largely due to a lack of both licensed medical personnel and training vacancies for students.
“It is inconceivable that more than half of Israel’s medical graduates come from abroad in schools that are not always satisfactory,” Litzman said.
Thursday’s vote undoes a previous decision made by the council’s Planning and Budgeting Committee in July 2018, when it voted 4-2 to establish the medical school at Ariel University, which is in the West Bank’s Area C – under Israeli civil and military control.
Six months later in December, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber ordered a re-vote due to an alleged conflict of interests. One of the members of the committee, Dr. Rivka Wadmany Shauman, had originally voted in favor of establishing the faculty of medicine at Ariel University – even though she was a candidate to teach at the institution as part of the teacher training program.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett lashed out at Thursday’s decision, stating that he intends to “fight the university cartel until we establish the Faculty of Medicine at Ariel University.
“Israel is crying out for doctors, and [the committee is] holding it back,” he continued.
The Yesha Council accused the Council of Higher Education of “damaging the future of Israel’s medicine.”
“Israeli academia is motivated by extraneous considerations and has stopped the scientific development of the State of Israel with its own hands,” the Yesha statement said.
The council had previously found that Ariel University’s medical program meets all the requirements for quality training of medical practitioners in Israel. As such, despite the committee’s decision, the university said medical studies will begin in October, as planned.
Ariel held an inaugural ceremony for the new medical school in summer 2018, shortly after the initial vote.
The school was founded in 1982 as a branch of Bar-Ilan University. It became an independent college in 2004 and in 2012 was granted accreditation by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.
Today, Ariel University is home to more than 15,000 students and 300 faculty members. In the field of health sciences, the university already offers a pre-med program and has 30 research labs.
The new medical faculty is named after Sheldon Adelson, the American billionaire and his Israeli-born wife, Miriam. It was reported that the Adelsons donated $5 million to the medical school, nearly a quarter of the estimated $28.4 million price tag.
Israel currently has five other medical schools: the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University in Safed; the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa; the Sackler Faculty of Medicine of Tel Aviv University; the Hadassah School of Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and the Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.
Ariel University said in a statement: “We are confident that the competent authorities will support us through this legal process to ensure we can move forward without hindrance.”