Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wide coalition may lose one of its senior members over an academic dispute.
MK Alex Miller from Yisrael Beytenu threatened Wednesday that a failure to upgrade a college in the settlement of Ariel to a university could create a “tough situation,” according to daily newspaper Maariv.
One of the clauses included in the coalition agreement between the ruling Likud party and Yisrael Beytenu stated that the Ariel University Center would become a university this year. “I can’t imagine the agreement will be broken,” Miller said.
Miller heads the Knesset’s Education Committee, and he promised to continue pushing the decision forward. “The committee will hold a special discussion on the matter,” he said. “We expect the decision to be implemented quickly, with no funny business.”
The college in Ariel was given an interim status of “University Center” five years ago, and in July it will go back to being a college unless the state votes to give it a new title. Getting university status would allow the school to expand the number of research programs and degrees offered.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said recently he would keep pushing to approve the proposed change.
The push to upgrade the school has drawn opposition from academics and the political left alike.
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, who heads the Israel Council for Higher Education’s budget and planning committee, said there is no need for another research oriented institution, and that since the budget would remain the same it would hurt existing universities.
Israeli academics also oppose the idea of forming an Israeli university beyond the Green Line. Such a decision would only increase calls from international academia to boycott other existing and proven Israeli institutions, they say.
Ariel Chancellor Yigal Cohen-Orgad has said that Israel has grown enough to allow for another university.
“For 40 years no university was built, while the population of Israel grew by 230 percent,” he said.