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Israeli Universities File Against West Bank College

Israel’s seven universities have asked the country’s Supreme Court to reverse a decision to make the Ariel University Center in the West Bank a full-fledged university.

The petition filed Monday claims that the decision-making process was flawed and that the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria did not have the authority to make a decision that crosses the boundaries of the West Bank and affects all of Israeli higher education, according to reports.

It also says that the establishment of another full university in Israel will harm higher education in Israel.

The lawsuit was filed against the Israeli military commander in the West Bank, the government, the ministers of defense and education, the Higher Education Council and the center itself. The center has more than 10,000 students, both Jewish and Arab. Some 15 percent of the college’s students live in the West Bank.

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.

The final authorization for making the Ariel center a university will be made by the Israel Defense Forces’ central commander in the West Bank, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who reportedly has not yet signed the go-ahead at the instruction of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has said he wants time to consider the implications.

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.

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