Two-thirds of the public support the recognition of the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university, according to a survey conducted by the Geocartographia Institute for the My Israel movement.
500 men and women, a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel, took part in the survey which was conducted via telephone during the first week of September.
The survey found that 67% of the public support the recognition of Ariel as a university and that only 13% oppose it. The support stems from the understanding that new universities will only serve to strengthen Israel in research and academics and that having an eighth university will help reduce social gaps and make higher education more accessible.
Only 23% of respondents identified with the heads of the other universities, who have filed a motion with the Supreme Court against the recognition of Ariel. Those who said they identify with the university heads fear that the establishment of a new university will weaken existing ones or cause a brain drain.
About three quarters of respondents said they believe that the resistance of the heads of universities to recognizing Ariel stems from political reasons rather than from professional ones.
As for Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s delaying of the recognition process, 63% of respondents believe that his considerations are influenced by political considerations. 54% said they believe Barak is being influenced by electoral considerations. Only 12% said they believe that Barak’s considerations are largely academic and professional.
The survey found that 64% of the public believes that if the University Center was located within the Green Line there would not be so many obstacles put in the way of its recognition as a university.
Sara Haetzni-Cohen of the My Israel movement said, “This survey shows the continuing disconnection between the heads of the academia, who petitioned the Supreme Court against the university in Ariel, and the Israeli public which enthusiastically supports the recognition and urges the Israeli government to end the university approval process.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed “disappointment” on Monday over the Israeli government’s decision to approve the recognition of the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university.
“I am very disappointed by last night’s decision by the Israeli Cabinet to approve the potential upgrading of Ariel College,” said a statement issued by Hague’s office.
“This would lead to the creation of Israel’s first university beyond the Green Line, in a settlement illegal under international law. It would further entrench the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and create an additional barrier to peace with the Palestinians,” he added.