Does the approval to turn the Ariel University Center of Samaria into a full-fledged university indicate the dawning of a new academic age? Not necessarily. Despite repeated assertions that the decision was an historic one, an investigation by Ynet has revealed that it will be a long time before it becomes official.
Not a few questions have arisen about founding a university beyond the Green Line. Sources familiar with the issue estimate that a number of points are subject to legal debate and that ultimately the High Court of Justice will have the final word.
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A member of the Council of Higher Education explained that one of the main questions was procedural. He said that according to the Council of Higher Education Law, any decision to establish a new university requires government approval. But the case of the Ariel University Center is unique, since international law stipulates that Judea and Samaria are under military rule, meaning that the head of the IDF Central Command has veto power.
The Council for Higher Education debates the question (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
The source said that the general, who does not belong to the world of academia, will consult with the defense minister and possibly even ask the Justice Ministry for an opinion, which could delay the process.
"In theory, it's a technical issue, but we can't forget that we are nearing elections," the source noted. "The defense minister could change and there is a definite possibility that political forces could try to influence the decision."
Two other issues also exist. One pertains to the Planning and Budgeting Committee, which by government decree has the sole power to determine the budgets of academic institutions in Israel.
However, since the decision to turn AUCS into a full university was taken against the committee's recommendation, some fear that members could veto a budget for the new university.
One legal authority noted that "since this is a precedent… the case law is still vague and hard to interpret."
Furthermore, he said, the Planning and Budgeting Committee could claim that it acted on behalf of the Council for Higher Education in Israel, and therefore the Ariel institution was not under its auspices. The committee declined to comment.
The second legal debate is related to whether the Council for Higher Education in Israel will recognize degrees from the Ariel university. An expert said that the country's universities that operate under the supervision of the Council for Higher Education in Israel could theoretically take advantage of a loophole and refuse to accept Ariel students to their graduate programs, arguing that the university's degree was not recognized by the council.
"Despite the fact that the Ariel university was approved by the book, there are still legal loopholes, and in my opinion the Knesset should address them before the issue comes before the High Court," the expert said.
Attorney Rachel Ben-Uri, the legal advisor for the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, explained that the law gave the military administrator the authority to decide on the matter and that his decision would be accepted.
Regarding the Planning and Budgeting Committee, Ben-Uri said that "it's true that (the committee) is the only entity that can set budgets for academic institutions, and thus far they always included the budget for academic institutions in Judea and Samaria. It's possible that now is the time to refine this point with new legislation."
Ben-Uri also addressed the issue of recognizing degrees from the Ariel university, saying that as soon as the military authority approved the AUCS as a full-fledged university, Israel's other institutions would be required to recognize its degrees.
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