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Ariel University’s establishment is legal, high court rules

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit filed by the heads of Israel’s universities against making Ariel University Center a full-fledged university.

The three-judge panel ruled late Tuesday that the process leading up to the recognition of the institution as a university was done lawfully and that there is no reason to intervene.

In July 2013, the Ariel institution was recognized as a full university by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which was established in 1997 after Israel’s Council for Higher Education refused to consider academic issues in the West Bank. The council had approved the university despite a recommendation against approval by the planning and budget committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education. The decision was ratified by the Knesset in September.

The lawsuit was filed a year ago, hours after Israel Defense Forces’ central commander in the West Bank, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, signed a document granting official recognition of Ariel University Center in the West Bank as a university.

The request was signed by the heads of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the University of Haifa and the Open University. They claim that the addition of a new university will funnel money away from them.

The president of Bar-Ilan University did not sign onto the lawsuit. Ariel College was a branch of Bar-Ilan before it began to seek official university status.

In 2007, the Ariel academic center was granted temporary recognition as a so-called university center, and its status was to be reexamined 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.

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