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Netanyahu backs new university in illegal settlement

February 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm

The Israeli government has backed the proposal to turn Ariel College into a university. The college is located in an illegal settlement built on occupied Palestinian territory. Supporting the proposal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that Ariel “is an integral part of Israel and will remain so in any future deal” with the Palestinians.

Responding to opponents of the creation of the new university, Netanyahu said that it is part of the government’s efforts to promote higher education across the state. “It is important to establish another university and it is also important that we establish it in Ariel,” he said.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar also defended the decision and pointed out that the university meets all the required criteria. He predicted that this decision would overcome all the procedural and judicial obstacles.

Although it is expected that the government will ratify the decision, it won’t come into force before the judicial consultant can consider the Supreme Court’s decision on a petition submitted by the presidents of existing Israeli universities who oppose the new institution. They fear that a university on occupied Palestinian land will re-ignite calls for an academic boycott of Israel.

Ariel College announced two years ago that its status was that of a “university education centre” without official recognition. In 2005, the government of Ariel Sharon approved its university status but then backed down under fierce opposition from the higher education sector.