Gov´t Upgrades College of Judea & Samaria to University

The cabinet voted 13-7 today to turn the College of Judea and Samaria in the Shomron city of Ariel into a full-fledged university.

, | updated: 16:18

Just recently, a major British lecturers’ union declared a boycott on Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan for maintaining relations with the College because it is located in a Jewish town in the Shomron.

Today's government decision followed intense debate between Labor and Likud members of the cabinet. All Labor cabinet ministers voted in accordance with Vice Premier Shimon Peres’ call to oppose the move, aside from Dalia Itzik, who abstained.

It was decided to link the upgrade of the College to the establishment of a new university in the Galilee as well. The new institution will be made up of several existing regional colleges in the area.

Minister of Housing Yitzhak Herzog (Labor) condemned the upgrade of the College of Judea and Samaria, calling it “a political act, not a social-educational decision." He warned that it would further harm Israel’s academic standing.

Health Minister Dan Naveh (Likud) accused the Labor Party of being completely devoid of Zionism and becoming a party of the extreme left. "Until now, I thought there was a consensus in Israel [about the future of Ariel], but today we learned that the Labor party is prepared to abandon Ariel," Naveh said.

The Likud's Education Minister Limor Livnat, who sponsored the move, said that it proves the existence of "agreements between the U.S. and Israel concerning the strengthening of the settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion, and Maaleh Adumim." Livnat was, until recently, a strong opponent of territorial giveaways.

Livnat compared the move to the founding of Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, which strengthened the Israeli presence in the area. "Upgrading colleges to universities is designed to support the settlement vision, and is being done in the national interest of the State of Israel," Livnat said.

The College of Judea and Samaria is Israel's largest public college, with 6,276 students enrolled this year.

The difference between a college and university is manifest in the level of research and the ability to grant doctorates.