Israeli politicians and educators remain at odds on whether to grant university status to the Ariel University Center
in the West Bank, Ynet reported Tuesday.
Professor Moshe Mandelbaum of the Planning and Budgeting Committee in the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which is expected to rule on the matter next month, told Ynet the number of universities in Israel
should be increased "in correlation with the growth of the Israeli economy.
"It's a budgetary issue, not a political one," he said.
Another Council member said he expects it would rule in favor of granting university status to the Ariel University Center.
Meanwhile, Knesset Member Dov Khenin (Hadash)
sent a letter to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who heads the Council, saying the initiative is driven by "political considerations."
He said the decision-making process must be "transparent," otherwise it would be "undemocratic and unacceptable."
A senior official in the higher education system who is affiliated with the Left predicted that the institution in Ariel will be given university status.
"The settlers lost in Ulpana,
but apparently they will gain a new university," he said.
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beitenu),
who heads the Education Committee, said the coalition agreement between his party and the ruling Likud party calls for granting university status to the institution in Ariel. "The center in Ariel met all the academic criteria (for recognition as a university) and has gained international recognition as a leading academic institution," he told Ynet. "The issue should not be influenced by political considerations."
chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, on her part, said "those who want to turn the (center in Ariel) into a university are single-handedly bringing an academic boycott on us. The attempt to give the center in Ariel university status constitutes blatant political intervention in Israeli academia.
"This is a cynical decision aimed at appeasing the settlers in Likud's Central Committee – it has nothing to do with academic achievements," she claimed.
"There is no need for another university in the heart of the territories. This is just another attempt to hinder any possibility of reaching a two-state solution."
The Committee of University Heads in Israel acknowledged that the decision on whether to grant the center in Ariel university status is in the Council's hands, but said "we believe that at this time there is no room for another research university in Israel."
The temporary recognition granted to the institution as a university center will expire in July.