While Yisrael Beiteinu praised the defense minister's decision to recognize Ariel College as a university, Ehud Barak's decision is sharply criticized among the Left. Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said that the move is wrought with conceptual and moral bankruptcy.
Ynet first published Wednesday that Barak authorized implementation of the decision that stood amidst political clashes within the coalition. At first, the college will be officially recognized as a "university center" as it calls itself currently. In a few years, another discussion will be held about turning the Ariel campus into the eighth university in Israel.
Member of Knesset Chaim Oron launched a scathing attack against the defense minister: "Even those of sharp eyesight and fine-tuned capabilities of distinction have for some time had difficulty locating the conceptual differences, even in the smallest nuances, between Barak and Netanyahu. Barak's decision will only accelerate the trends toward isolating Israel from the academic world in the international community."
The decision also drew criticism from the Arab parties in the Knesset. MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said, "Barak continues to permit the infestation of settlements and surrender to Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. Barak's decision will only spur the academic boycott of Israel in the world. The Labor Party proves once again that that it is a barrier to reconciliation between the two nations."
MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) added: "This is a purely political decision that amounts to supporting the settlements under the guise of higher education. It is best for the government, if it wishes to support higher education, to support existing universities and to decide on starting a university in Nazareth."
On the other hand, Yisrael Beiteinu praised Barak's move and emphasized that "this was done in accordance with the coalition agreement."
MK Alex Miller, who serves as chairman of the Student Union in the Knesset and lives in Ariel, praised the decision which, according to him, will strengthen Jewish settlement of the West Bank. "The government gave an important shot of encouragement today to the Jewish settlement in Samaria and to academia in Israel."
Amnon Meranda, Yaheli Moran Zelikovich, Sharon Roffe-Ofir, and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report