U.S. touts close ties with new medical school in Ariel settlement

The country’s sixth such training institute for doctors opened its doors on Sunday.

US Ambassador David Friedman toasting the opening of the new medical school at Ariel University.  (photo credit: TPS/HILLEL MEIR)
US Ambassador David Friedman toasting the opening of the new medical school at Ariel University.
(photo credit: TPS/HILLEL MEIR)
Israel opened its sixth faculty of medicine on Sunday with the blessings of US Ambassador David Friedman, who attended the inauguration and touted his country’s tight ties with Ariel University, located in the fourth-largest West Bank settlement of Ariel.
“A new medical school has opened in Samaria,” Friedman said during a brief address at the school’s opening. “How many people had ever thought that those words would ever be spoken? We at the State Department are very proud to work so closely with Ariel University, along with other universities in Israel. It is a great honor for us.”
Naftali Bennett, former education minister and co-party head of the New Right Party, said that the opening day ceremony was a “huge” celebratory moment for Israel, both politically and educationally.
“No longer is there a Green Line,” Bennett said. “We are one [united] Israel and that is how it should be. We are going to serve everyone here.”
Friedman’s presence at the university and his words about the strong connection between the school and US President Donald Trump’s administration highlighted the dramatic shift in the US’s stance toward Israeli settlement activity.
Although Ariel University was accredited in 2012, the then-Obama administration did not have ties with the institution, even though it had connections with the other eight Israeli universities – all of which are located within sovereign Israel.
When former president Barack Obama visited Israel in 2013, he excluded Ariel University students from an event that was open to their peers at other universities. Obama had routinely condemned settlement activity in the West Bank.
Friedman’s positive words about the medical school in Ariel comes as Trump adviser Jared Kushner and new Middle East negotiator, Avi Berkowitz, are slated to meet Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to discuss the unpublished Trump administration peace plan that is widely believed to allow Israel to retain its West Bank settlements, including the city of Ariel.
In speaking of the university on Sunday, Friedman never mentioned the word settlement or the West Bank, preferring instead the term “Judea and Samaria.”
“The US Embassy enjoys warm relations with Ariel University,” Friedman said. “We are inspired by its contributions to Israeli society and to the scientific world.”
He described how earlier in the year, Ariel University had participated for the first time in a State Department flagship exchange program for institutes of higher education.
“We hope that these exchanges of people, and ideas and knowledge continue,” Friedman said.
The opening of a medical university in Judea and Samaria is the fulfillment of the biblical directive to choose life, he said. To adhere to this directive is to “respect and advance the sanctity and the value of every human being,” according to Friedman.
“In an ancient land, beset with ancient conflicts,” Ariel University has made such a choice and is moving forward on a path of coexistence and tolerance that will ultimately lead to peace, he said.
Friedman referenced the school’s policy of accepting Jewish, Muslim and Christian students. The new faculty of medicine will also include a medical center, slated to open in two years, which will treat all area residents.
Philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who is a physician, were at the ceremony and are major donors to the university and the medical school. The school is named the Adelson School of Medicine in recognition of their contributions.
Ariel University said that it services some 15,000 students, including 70 in its incoming medical class. Some 9% of its student body, it said, comes from non-Jewish homes.
The institution was first created as a college in 1982, and fought its way toward acceptance as a university. It bucked international pressure because of its location in the West Bank. It also ran into domestic obstruction from the other seven universities, which initially were opposed to the accreditation of an eighth institute of higher learning.