West Bank about to get first Israeli university

A college in a West Bank settlement is about to become Israel’s first university in the territories, pending a go-ahead from the Israeli military.

The Ariel University Center on July 17 was recognized as a full university by the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education, which handles educational concerns in the West Bank. The center, which has more than 10,000 students, Jewish and Arab, would be called Ariel University.

The 11-2 vote came despite a recommendation against approval by the planning and budget committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, as well as opposition from the country’s other seven universities and public figures who objected to upgrading a college located 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. According to the Jerusalem Post, Alon is expected to back the decision.

In 2007, the Ariel academic center was granted temporary recognition as a so-called university center, with its status to be reexamined within five years. Ariel, with a population of about 20,000, is located southwest of the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Birzeit University, five miles north of Ramallah, is a Palestinian-run institution, with courses taught mainly in Arabic and English. — jta