Universities appeal to High Court over Ariel status

Presidents of Israeli universities file injunction to High Court 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 Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities filed a motion to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday against the upgrade of Ariel University Center to university status that was announced a day earlier.
The motion, which asks the court to issue an injunction ordering the commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, not to recognize the university, reiterates a petition that was filed to the court on the subject back in August. The president of Bar-Ilan University has since withdrawn his opposition.
Tuesday’s motion, signed by the heads of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the University of Haifa and the Open University, argues against the substance of decision, and also its timing.
“These are election days and any decision on this sensitive matter at this time can be interpreted as a political move.
There is no logic in acting so urgently,” the document states.
Among other arguments, the members of the council wrote that they worry that Ariel’s new status will lead to budget cuts for the other universities in the country.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz condemned the motion submitted to the court on Tuesday and called the heads of the institutions to reconsider their position.
“After I added a billion shekels in a multi-year program to strengthen universities and colleges in Israel, it’s quite outrageous to receive complaints about the budgetary damage caused by Ariel University,” Steinitz said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said on Monday that the decision to grant university status to the Ariel University Center of Samaria was “unfortunate” and “the fact that [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak decided to adopt it and give recognition to the university for the ‘sciences’ of continued occupation and destruction of democracy is a wasteful political decision designed to help [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu in the election.
“This recognition will cost Israel further international isolation that will now expand to academia,” Gal-On continued.
Barak on Monday ordered the upgrade of Ariel University Center to a fully accredited university.
This would be the first time since the Open University officially recognized in 1980 that an Israeli institute of higher learning has been accredited.
Ariel University Center said following Monday’s decision: “We are pleased to see that all those concerned were never diverted by the false arguments of those with extraneous interests.
“First and foremost is Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who withstood heavy pressure and insisted on recognizing an eighth research university in Israel. Along with him the move was assisted by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, Minister of Sport Limor Livnat, as well as Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who worked by understanding of the truth and did not heed to the objections,” the university continued.
Netanyahu on Tuesday called the recognition of the Ariel University “a very important addition.”
Sa’ar agreed, and expressed his satisfaction with the initiative: “This term [as education minister] was successful in completing a huge move despite numerous irrelevant objections.”
“Making Ariel University Center the eight university in Israel is important news for the entire higher education system,” Sa’ar said.