Photo: AP
Sharon savoring vote
Photo: AP
Photo: Knesset
Livnat pushed for Ariel
Photo: Knesset

Government OKs university in Ariel

Decision to turn Ariel College into university stirs government controversy; Labor party ministers say move “serves political interests”

JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in Monday’s cabinet meeting that he sees great importance in upgrading Ariel College, in the West Bank, to a university.


“The process mirrors the position of the government, whose objective is the strengthening of settlement blocs,” said Sharon.


Likud ministers voted for the proposal, which passed despite the almost unanimous opposition of Labor ministers; only Communications Minister Dalia Itzik abstained in the vote. By contrast, the government was united on the establishment of a university in the Galilee.


The cabinet vote on Ariel College, which currently has 7,000 students, turned into a political brawl as Labor ministers lashed out at the idea, while Likud ministers supported it.


Sharon said he backed the idea, presented by Education Minister Limor Livnat, adding: “I would like to thank Shimon Peres and Limor Livnat for this proposal. Of course, the matter has to get the approval from the Council of Higher Education, and I believe that getting both decisions is crucial.”


With the cabinet vote, Sharon said, “Settlement blocs are also a priority for the government. The establishment of a university is important for residents, it affects their situation.”


Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed surprise at Labor's opposition. He said, “Just as the government facilitates the establishment of a university in the Galilee, it establishes a university in Ariel with the explicit understanding that the Ariel bloc will forever be a part of the State of Israel. It seems that this isn’t the intention of the Labor Party.”


Labor: It serves political interests


Sources within the Labor Party said that Peres, who pushed for a university in the Galilee, was furious over the proposal to likewise turn Ariel College into a university. They said that, in closed meetings, Peres said the move was a violation of Labor-Likud understandings that public investment would only go to the Negev and Galilee, not to the settlements.


When Peres left the cabinet meeting, he told Environment Minister Shalom Simhon, “It’s a scandal that they brought this idea to a vote today in the government. They tricked us.”



Interior Minister Ophir Pines said the idea to promote both universities ran the risk “of torpedoing the establishment of both of them.”


Simhon, meanwhile, asked why there was a need to establish a new university only 20 minutes away by car from Bar-Ilan University. Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Herzog added, “The establishment of a university in Ariel will not help Israel’s standing in the academic world and will just serve political, not societal, interests.”


However, Health Minister Danny Naveh attacked Labor ministers: “Until today, I thought Ariel was a part of the consensus, but now I see that Labor is wiling to abandon Ariel. Labor’s opposition shows that it is bereft of nationalism and Zionism … It seems that the Labor party has decided to position itself left of Yachad and slightly right of Hadash.”


פרסום ראשון: 05.02.05, 14:53
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