The Knesset building.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
One of many bills on the Knesset’s agenda to apply Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, this time by having the Council of Higher Education include institutes in settlements, passed a first reading in the plenum on Monday night.
The “Ariel bill,” proposed by Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee chairman Ya’acov Margi (Shas), would expand the Council of Higher Education’s authority to include Judea and Samaria, canceling the current, separate council for the region.
The bill is meant to facilitate the opening of a medical school in Ariel University in Samaria, but also is part of a trend by coalition lawmakers to apply Israeli laws to the West Bank.
Laws do not automatically extend to the West Bank and usually require a military order for them to apply because the IDF governs the area. Many on the Right see this as discrimination against Israeli citizens based on where they live.
The Left, however, considers moves to change the situation as a form of settlement annexation.
Among the moves the government and coalition have taken in response to the situation is the refusal of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to have the Ministerial Committee for Legislation review government bills that do not include an explanation of how they will apply to the West Bank – either through legislation or a military order – and the Knesset legal adviser asking legislative committees to do the same, at the prodding of the coalition-run Knesset House Committee. In addition, Likud MK Yoav Kisch submitted a bill that would apply Israeli law to all West Bank settlements.
Moalem-Refaeli called the “Ariel bill” passing a first reading “another step towards sovereignty and normalization, since the academic regulation of institutes of higher education in Judea and Samaria will be… like all other academic institutions in Israel.”
If the bill passes a final vote, it will allow Ariel University to open a new medical school, Moalem-Refaeli explained.
“Today, the law does not see Ariel University as an Israeli academic institution, and therefore, it cannot open a medical school affiliated with Israeli hospitals for clinical work,” she said. “Canceling the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education and putting the university under the [general] Council for Higher Education’s authority will remove the obstacle and allow the establishment of a medical school that will meet the needs of Israel’s medical system.”
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson, however, called the bill cowardly, adding: “Don’t do a creeping annexation. Go with your truth. Pay the price… You’re tricking your voters. You’re not able to implement your ideology… Let’s see you promote [Kisch’s] annexation bill.”
MK Youssef Jabareen of the Joint List also called the bill “creeping annexation.”
“This bill is trying to annex the settlement Ariel through Ariel University,” he said. “I remind you that the Council for Higher Education opposed Ariel being named a university… Now you want to bring the management and supervision back to the CHE despite their opposition. This hurts all the universities in Israel, which won’t be able to cooperate with institutes abroad.”