Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak has instructed GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon to officially recognize the Ariel University Center of Samaria as a full-fledged university, as per Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's recommendation.
Weinstein on Monday upheld the Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council's decision to accredit the school.
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Despite staunch opposition on the part of the national Council for Higher Education, the cabinet decided to recognize the institution as the first Israeli university beyond the Green Line this past September. The government then submitted the resolution for the approval of GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, pending the attorney general's review.
Ariel University Center (Photo: AP)
Weinstein, who on Monday finally submitted his official take on the matter, said that there are "no obstacles" that could bar the accreditation, adding that the move to recognize the school was in accordance with the law.
Weinstein disregarded the national council's opposition, noting that decisions pertaining to colleges located beyond the Green Line are within the Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council's jurisdiction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the school's chancellor, Yigal Cohen-Orgad, on Monday and noted that "after decades, there is another university in Israel." Netanyahu said the step has "empowered" the higher education system in the country.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who chairs the Council for Higher Education, lauded the development as well: "The Ariel University Center's certification as the eighth university in Israel is a significant step for the entire higher education system," he said.
Chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, tried to claim at least some of the credit for the measure, saying that "This is an additional and significant Yisrael Beiteinu promise that is now being fulfilled." He further stated that the move "strengthens the settlements in Judea and Samaria and the system of higher education."
The Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities blasted the decision: "It's unfortunate that the attorney general has decided to uphold an inadequate measure that is plagued with political interests and extraneous considerations and will prove to be disastrous for higher education in Israel," the council said.
The council claimed that no proper inquiry was made into the feasibility of the accreditation and into the college's academic quality.
"The matter is now in the hands of the High Court of Justice and we believe this decision will be overturned," the council said.
Shahar Chai contributed to the report
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