MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) issued a strongly hinted threat Tuesday to punish the universities that oppose granting Ariel University Center fully fledged university status, by cutting their budgets.
MK Miller spoke at the launching of the Knesset lobby for recognizing Ariel as a fully fledged university. The event was held at Ariel University Center and was attended by the lobby chairs, MKs Miller and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), as well as MKs Yuval Zellner (Kadima), Avraham Michaeli (Shas), Michael Ben Ari (National Union) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu).
"A long time has passed since the government decided to turn the Ariel University Center into a university," MK Miller said. "I find it unfortunate that the university presidents are the ones throwing spanners in the works of this important move, which will strengthen the status of higher education and enhance Israel's status as an academic powerhouse."
"The only problem is the institution's location, and if the institution is not approved through the Committee for Higher Education (CHE), I will propose the law to regulate this move. We should remember that soon, the budget of the state of Israel for 2013 will be approved and we will have the opportunity for dealing with the budgets of the academic institutions that oppose establishing a university in Ariel," he said.
An urgent debate on the matter will be convened at the Knesset next week, he noted, with the participation of Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, who chairs the CHE.
MK Hotovely said that while other countries are proud to have numerous universities, "only Israel is ashamed to enlarge the number by one more university." She accused the academic establishment of behaving like a cartel that seeks to preserve its own status. "This is an academic putsch against the Israeli government's economic and political policy," she accused. "Ariel is in the heart of Israeli consensus; there is no Zionist left wing that thinks Ariel is not on the map of Israel."
MK Zellner from left-of-center Kadima said it was important for him to attend "to show that I, too, am here." He compared the university center at Ariel to a melting pot "that symbolizes equality in the complex mosaic that we inhabit."