Court refuses to block Ariel's university status

Move comes in response to injunction filed by university heads against Ariel University Center’s upgrade to university status.

Ariel UNV (photo credit: Students at the Ariel University Center in Samaria)
Ariel UNV
(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.
On 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court told the Council of Presidents of Israel Universities, which filed the request, that their original petition was no longer valid since it sought to prevent Ariel University Center from being declared a university, which has already happened.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 continued.
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 request.
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 alleged.
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 question.
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.
“I’m happy 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 gaps.”