The settlers and their allies should be thanking their God for their good fortune. Ehud Barak, of all people, was appointed defense minister and is doing their dirty work. Anyone else - Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, or even Avigdor Lieberman wouldn't have been able to pull it off. They wouldn't have dared.
But Labor's chairman - the moderate, balanced man in the cabinet - has no inhibitions about what people will say. Everything, it seems, has already been said about him and his flip-flops and deceit. His skin has grown so tough that arrows of criticism slip off his oily complacency. What difference would another arrow, more or less, make?
Barak is following in the footsteps of Golda, Galili, Dayan and Peres. Begin and Sharon found the work had been done. Labor has always been the great legitimizer of the occupation's evils. This is the historical mission it has taken on, and no other party could have done it better.
Now Labor is legitimizing another evil. Having once served as chairman of the Council for Higher Education, I can assert: There is no academic justification for recognizing Ariel College as a university. Nor as a "university center" - a smart-aleck term trying to bypass the rules.
Barak always believes he can build a new career with tricks and ruses but ends up tripping himself with his ploys.
This college, soon to become a university, has not scored any impressive achievement. It is far inferior to other Israeli colleges. Had it not established itself in occupied territory, it wouldn't have had the slightest chance of upgrading its status. The defense minister's decision is evidently political. It is taking advantage of a breach in the law. Instead of having the issue examined and determined by an academic authority, as is customary, the military commander of the occupied territory is making the decision. After receiving instructions from the politician in charge of him.
Barak will be remembered - among other things - for his unique contribution to degrading higher education in Israel. Thanks to him, we will have the only university in the free world whose founders and owners are uniformed officers. Now those boycotting Israeli universities have a case - proof of the tightening knot between the occupation, military administration and academe.
No doubt, Barak's move will raise more calls to boycott Israeli universities and academics.
We can only hope the Council for Higher Education will not cooperate with this outrageous move. Otherwise, it would betray the public's trust and do irreparable damage to all the universities and colleges under its charge.
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