(photo credit: Students at the Ariel University Center in Samaria)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday denied a request by a group of university
presidents for an injunction to stop Ariel University Center being recognized as
a full-fledged university.
The presidents had hoped their motion filed on
Tuesday would prevent any immediate changes regarding Ariel’s status from going
forward until their full petition against the decision could be heard.
Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – following the recommendation of Attorney-
General Yehuda Weinstein earlier that day – ordered the Ariel University Center
to be upgraded to a full university, the country’s first new university since
1980. On Tuesday, the final step in the process was made by the head of the IDF
in Judea and Samaria, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen.
Nitzan Alon, who
signed the official document.
Though it struck down the injunction
request, the court did leave the presidents one legal outlet. The court told the
Council of Presidents of Israel Universities, which filed the request, that
their original petition was no longer valid since it sought to prevent Ariel
University Center from being declared a university, which has already happened.
The court did say, however, that the presidents could amend their petition by
the end of January and still be heard.
The council released a statement
on Wednesday evening saying, “For technical reasons only, and since the decision
of the commander was only transferred to us this evening, we were asked by the
court to file a revised request within a week, and we will.
“In any case,
the petition itself is still pending and we hope that the court will cancel the
decision and prevent harm to the higher education system,” it
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Earlier on Wednesday, the state attorney had attacked the
request for an injunction, stating that both the injunction and the original
petition should be denied.
The High Court had ordered the state to
respond by 2 p.m.
on Wednesday to the university presidents’ injunction
In the state’s response, it said that the original petition to
block university recognition had been filed prematurely, before a final decision
by Alon had approved the upgrade. On this basis alone, the state said that the
whole petition should be thrown out, and by virtue of that decision, the
injunction request would also need to be denied.
The state said that the
Council of Presidents needed to file a new petition addressing the new legal
reality brought about Alon’s decision on Tuesday, and the court ruled in
agreement with the state.
The state said, however, that even if the
presidents filed a new petition, the 1981 law governing the issue clearly
empowered the Council of Higher Education of Judea and Samaria – which announced
the upgrade in September – with the military commander’s approval, to recognize
institutions as universities, regardless of opposition by other parties, such as
the Israel Council of Higher Education.
The state also argued that the
presidents offered no evidence that allowing the decision to go through before
they could file another petition would cause 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
The court did not take a position on these arguments, giving the
presidents one more chance to make their case, though it is rare for the court
to grant a petition after rejecting an injunction request in the same case,
especially if several governmental organs have already ratified the decision in
Dr. Oded Suchard of the Social Justice Party told The Jerusalem
Post on Wednesday that he was pleased with the decision to grant Ariel
University Center university status.
“From having taught there eight
years ago, Ariel was at a university level years ago already, nothing less than
the University of Haifa or Ben- Gurion University,” he said.
that they finally got the recognition they deserve.
“The credit for the
new status goes to the students and the faculty. They made this possible, not
the politicians, like [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] and [Bayit Yehudi
chairman Naftali] Bennett who are fighting back and forth over who gets the
credit for it,” he added.
“People are surprised because they think the
Social Justice Party is automatically leftist,” Suchard continued. “We are a
social party but a Zionist one as well. We support any social initiative, and a
new university in the periphery will be great for minimizing the existing social
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