JERUSALEM (JTA) — Ariel University Center in the West Bank has been given final approval for recognition as a full university.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday ordered the Israel Defense Forces’ central commander in the West Bank, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, to officially recognize Ariel University Center as a university.
The order came hours after Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein upheld the Judea and Samaria Higher Education Council’s July vote to accredit the school.
In July, the Ariel center was recognized as a full university by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which was established in 1997 after the Council for Higher Education refused to discuss academic issues concerning the West Bank.
The Judea and Samaria council’s 11-2 vote came despite a recommendation against approval by the planning and budget committee of the Council for Higher Education, as well as opposition from the country’s other seven universities and public figures who objected to upgrading a college in the West Bank. They also say that the establishment of another full university in Israel will harm higher education in the country.
The decision was ratified by the Knesset in September.
In 2007, the Ariel academic center was granted temporary recognition as a so-called university center, and to reexamine its status within five years. Ariel, with a population of about 20,000, is located southwest of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
The center has more than 10,000 students, Jewish and Arab. Some 15 percent of the college’s students live in the West Bank.
The heads of Israel’s other universities recently filed a petition with the Supreme Court against upgrading Ariel’s status.