Ariel University Center
Ariel University CenterAriel University Center

A member of the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education (CHE-JS) was undeterred on Tuesday as the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities tried to prevent the Ariel University Center in the Shomron from becoming a full-fledged university.

The Council, headed by Professor Rivka Carmi, has sent a letter to the head of IDF Central Command, Nitzan Alon, asking him not to approve the center’s recognition as a university. The CHE-JS has already decided to recognize Ariel as a university but final approval needs to come from the IDF, which has legal authority over Judea and Samaria. Alon has to sign the approval so it can take effect.

In the letter, the Council members wrote Alon, “We urge you to act in accordance with the law, exercise your judgment, not be a rubber stamp and not approve the decision of the CHE-JS, and thus repair the damage and save the future of research in Israel.”

The Council members added, “This decision of the CHE-JS was fundamentally flawed - it was made without authority, without a prior and through examination procedure of the scientific needs of Israel and the criteria required for the requested recognition, while ignoring relevant considerations, and contrary to the professional position of the Committee for Planning and Budgeting in the Council for Higher Education, which mentioned the broad planning and budgetary needs of the education and research system in Israel.”

The members of the Council claimed in the letter that CHE-JS’ decision to recognize Ariel as a university oversteps its boundary and “ignores the most preliminary question: Is it necessary and possible to establish another research university in Israel? The authority to answer this question is reserved exclusively for the CHE in Israel and for the Committee for Planning and Budgeting. CHE-JS does not have authority to make decisions which have wide implications for Israel's higher education system. Even if it was found that there is room for another university, the procedure had to be done equitably, and should have been open to a variety of institutions.”

However, Prof. Ortzion Bartana, a member of CHE-JS who also heads the graduate studies program in Jewish Studies at the Ariel University Center, told Arutz Sheva that he believes the appeal to Alon will not prevent Ariel from becoming a university.

Bartana said he is puzzled by the opposition to establish another university on the grounds that it will affect research funding.

“I do not understand their attitude. Increasing knowledge is the most important resource in our society, why should anyone object to another university? On the contrary, many more universities should be established,” he said, adding, “A university creates information and thus creates capital. A university not only consumes but also produces, so adding another university does not mean dividing the resources among more factors but rather increasing creativity and, ultimately, increasing resources.”

Professor Bartana said that he is convinced that the establishment of another university, this one in Samaria, will add a lot to the academic world in Israel.

“Israel has many different regions. There is a university in the Shfela, in the Negev, in Jerusalem and in other places, so there is no reason not to have a university in Samaria,” he said. “And if someone asks me what about the Galilee and the Golan, then I would say that a university should also be established there.”

He said he believes the appeal by the Council of Presidents to Alon will not help them.

“When all else fails one does everything in his power, but since this university was ultimately not established by the military and not by one commander or another, no commander will be able to stop the establishment of the university,” said Bartana.

Years ago, Hebrew University opposed the establishment of Tel Aviv University vehemently as well, claiming that there would not be enough funds for both.