Shouting match erupts between PM, Bennett over 'Ariel Law'

Bennett blasts PM over failure to pass law normalizing colleges in Judea, Samaria.

David Rosenberg,

Binyamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Gilad Erdan
Binyamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Gilad Erdan

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) clashed at a meeting of coalition leaders Sunday night, after Bennett blamed Netanyahu’s Likud party for failing to pass the “Ariel University Law”.

The bill, which was proposed by Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem Refaeli and Chairman of the Knesset Education Committee MK Yaakov Margi (Shas), would normalize the status of all Israeli institutions of higher learned located in Judea and Samaria.

At present, schools like Ariel University, Orot College in Elkana, and Herzog College in Gush Etzion are not under the authority of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, and are instead administered by a separate Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.

Last month, the coalition voted to back the bill, likely ensuring it will pass the three Knesset votes necessary to enshrine it in law, and removing the need for a preliminary vote.

Since then, however, no progress has been made in bringing the proposal up for a vote.

Earlier on Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) threatened to prevent the coalition from passing any future legislation if the bill was not advanced.

Some 200 Israeli academics called on the government not to pass the law, signing a letter warning that such a move would turn “Israeli academia into an active partner in the occupation”.

According to a report by Channel 2, tensions within the government boiled over during a coalition gathering Sunday evening, when the Education Minister slammed Netanyahu’s handling of the issue.

“Why are you behaving like this?” Netanyahu reportedly said to Bennett, as the conversation descended into a shouting match. “You’re destroying the integrity of the coalition!”

Bennett retorted, “I’m running the best functioning party [in the coalition]. We’re there for every [Knesset] vote. We don’t have any Sharren Haskels or [Rachel] Azariahs,” continued Bennett, referencing Likud MK Sharren Haskel and Kulanu MK Rachel Azariya’s opposition to the “Supermarket Law” being pushed by the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.

“You’ve let the Ariel University Law sit there for a whole month.”

At that point the confrontation escalated, with Netanyahu responding “This isn’t how you get things done. This is very serious. If you want to break up the coalition, so then break it up!”

A spokesperson from the Jewish Home responded to the Channel 2 report, saying that the party was committed to the passage of the Ariel University Law, and viewed the issue as a matter of importance not only for the settlement enterprise but Israeli higher education.

“The Ariel University Law, which would put Ariel University under the authority of the Council for Higher Education, is vital for the infrastructure of Ariel University and the settlement enterprise as a whole, and is critical for the establishment of a medical school in Ariel.”

“We trust that the Prime Minister, who pushed for the passage of the Regulation Law and the Jerusalem Law, will also break through the legislative roadblocks in the Knesset, and will join with us in passing this important law.”

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