Ariel college - Alex Levac
Ariel college campus in the West Bank. Photo by Alex Levac

When the violent conflict in the territories was at its height a decade or so ago, then IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Israel's goal was to sear the Palestinians' consciousness with the understanding that violence doesn't pay.

Today, the government in which Ya'alon now serves as a minister doesn't miss an opportunity to sear the consciousness of Palestinians and Israelis alike with the idea that a diplomatic agreement on a two-state solution is no longer on the table.

The expansion of settlements and the legalization of outposts have contributed to the physical erasure of the Green Line. Construction of the new cultural auditorium in Ariel, taking students on tours of the West Bank, and now the plan to turn the "university center" in Ariel into a full-fledged university, are similarly erasing the pre-1967 borders from the collective consciousness of both Palestinians and Israelis.

The budgetary implications of the decision made by a subcommittee of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria - that the Ariel University Center meets the requirements for becoming a university - are dwarfed by the diplomatic and educational message this decision sends out. This message could be heard clearly when Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar pledged to upgrade the university center during a recent visit to Ariel, explaining that he views it as an "important anchor" of Israel's presence in the northern West Bank.

As noted by the approximately 300 academics who signed a petition against upgrading the academic center, the initial establishment of a college in Ariel stemmed from political considerations that had no connection to the development needs of Israeli academia. In response to the lecturers' protest, the university center's president, Prof. Dan Meyerstein, argued that the decision on whether to recognize the university should be based on academic criteria, not its location.

But Ariel is not just another "location." It is situated in occupied territory that is a focus of controversy both within Israeli society and in the international community. The State of Israel has barred Palestinians from most of the territory of the West Bank. They are permitted to build Ariel's houses, but not to live there. Ariel, like all the other settlements, is a closed military zone as far as they are concerned.

If the government wishes to keep the two-state solution in the public consciousness, and/or to protect the status of Israeli universities within the international academic community, it would do better to call a halt to this dangerous move that the education minister is promoting.

Read this story in Hebrew