US embassy keeps Ariel U. out of Obama visit

Bayit Yehudi's Chetboun says Obama's exclusion of W. Bank students is "puzzling"; Ariel student council chairman is "shocked."

Ariel University in Samaria 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Ariel University)
Ariel University in Samaria 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Ariel University)
The US Embassy has excluded Ariel University, located in the West Bank, from the invitation list for President Barack Obama’s speech to Israeli students during his visit next week.
According to student union representatives, the embassy contacted the other seven accredited Israeli universities, all of which are located within the pre-1967 lines, but not the sole Israeli university located in the West Bank.
Ariel University Student Union head Shay Shahaf said he hoped the omission was an error that can be corrected rather than a political statement with respect to their location.
He noted that his school became Israel’s eighth accredited university in December and that there still might be confusion over its students’ status.
MK Yoni Chetboun has written a letter to the US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on the students’ behalf asking that the embassy include representatives from Ariel University at the event, scheduled for next Thursday at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
“This university was officially and legally recognized by the government of Israel,” Chetboun wrote.
“By boycotting its students, your government is very much taking a specific, one-sided political stand, which it is supposedly attempting not to do,” he wrote.
“As a member of Knesset who was elected by Israelis from all around the country, including from Judea and Samaria, I want to believe that the inconsistent decision to boycott the students of the University of Ariel was a decision that was made by your president’s advisers, and not by the president himself,” he said.
Ariel University spokesman had no comment on the situation. The Prime Minister’s Office and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro similarly refused to speak on the matter. The White House referred all comments to the embassy.
An official from the embassy said, “We are working with institutions that are partners in joint programs with the US Embassy.” The embassy official added that there had not been room for all its partners.
Volunteers on a Facebook website affiliated with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry posted a protest note on Wednesday against the decision, which was then removed.
Shahaf said that since Ariel University students were academically on par with their peers, they should be able to enjoy the same benefits as all other university students in Israel.
But although Ariel University has official ties with academic institutions around the world, it has also been the subject of boycott calls because of its location.
On Twitter, activists immediately commented on the obvious implications of the United States’ refusal to invite students from a West Bank settlement to a major event.
Palestine Today tweeted the following note, “Dear American liberals: President Obama boycotted Ariel University and so can you.”
Ariel University is located in the fourthlargest Jewish city in the West Bank, of the same name, and is considered by most Israelis to be a settlement bloc that will remain within its boundaries in any final-status agreement.
The Palestinians, in turn, have insisted that the city, which is located 16.1 kilometers over the pre-1967 line, is situated on land that should be part of their future state.