Education minister cries foul as Samaria university denied medical school

Following the reversal of a previous decision, Education Minister Naftali Bennett vows to fight until Ariel medical school is established.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

The Planning and Budgets Committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, which oversees and accredits Israeli colleges and universities, has decided not to grant a medical school to Ariel University in Samaria. The vote reverses an earlier decision which had given the green light to the university.

The re-vote was forced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who had ruled that a conflict of interest had tainted the vote of council deputy chair Rivka Wadmany Shauman, who was being considered for a promotion at Ariel at the time that the previous decision was made.

The institution was founded in 1982 as a branch of Bar-Ilan University. It became an independent college in 2004. In 2012, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the upgrade of the Ariel University Center, as it had been called at that point, to the status of a fully accredited university.

A year ago, the Knesset placed Ariel University under the direct authority of Israel’s higher education establishment, ending the distinction between schools within pre-1967 Israel and those in  Judea and Samaria, outside of  Israel’s sovereign borders.

Ariel University

Ariel University (Courtesy: Ariel University)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who was instrumental in the bill’s passage, said at the time that the law meant “that Ariel will no longer be a second class [university],” said Bennett. “It’s a big step that will also enable us to open a medical school in Ariel.”

However, that ambition of the education minister has now been put on hold.

The battle of upgrading the Ariel institution to a university and allowing it to expand as a full-fledged member of the Israeli educational community has been hampered by those who oppose normalizing Israel’s hold on Judea and Samaria. There have been also accusations that the forum of university presidents is an exclusive club which does not want outsiders to join.

In responding to the reversal of the approval to set up a medical school in Ariel, Bennett vowed Thursday that he would “not give up” the fight until the move is approved and reiterated that he is determined to fight the “university cartel.”

Said Bennett: “It’s unbelievable how the university cartel sticks a wrench in the works to prevent the establishment of a medical faculty in Ariel. Israel is desperate for doctors, and all they can do is try to stop it! We won’t give up until we establish the faculty,” added the education minister.