Med School in West Bank Settlement Gets Green Light Pending High Court Appeal

Council for Higher Education votes 13 to 3 in favor, but High Court of Justice will hear petition claiming conflict of interest in decision making process

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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Ariel University in the West Bank.
Ariel University in the West Bank. Credit: \ Moti Milrod
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

The Council for Higher Education in Israel approved the establishment of a new medical school at Ariel University on Thursday. The Council voted in favor of the new medical faculty at the university in the West Bank Jewish settlement with 13 voting in favor and 5 voting against.

The vote was to officially approve a decision to found the new medical school made by the Council for Higher Education of Judea and Samaria, made the day before this West Bank council was dissolved and its responsibilities handed over to the Israeli council in February.

On Monday, the High Court of Justice will hear a petition submitted by two academics against the establishment of the medical school, based on the claim that the approval “casts a heavy shadow on the decision making process in higher education.” The two petitioners are the vice president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Prof. David Harel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, and Prof. Alon Harel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit allowed the West Bank council to make the decision just hours before it dissolved but recommended at the time for the matter to be voted on by the national Council for Higher Education again. Mendelblit also said the discussion should take place within two months, so that the university, its lecturers and the medical school’s applicants would have adequate time to prepare for the next academic year.

In February,the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee voted 3-2 to reject Ariel University’s request to open a medical school, reversing a decision from July 2019. The committee held the second vote after it was determined that one council member, Rivka Wadmany Shauman, had conflict of interest as she was vying for a professorship at the Ariel University when she voted to support plans for the medical school.

Mendelblit had ordered the Planning and Budgeting Committee to hold the second vote without Shauman being present, and without the presence of another member of the committee, Zvi Hauser, who later joined the Kahol Lavan party and will serve in the new Knesset. Nonetheless, the full Council now voted in favor of the plan to open the new medical school.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman expressed satisfaction with the CHE’s decision to approve the new medical school. “I am happy about the process and the final decision on the matter,” he said. “I want to thank Education Minister Naftali Bennett for not easing up on the matter. The medical school in Ariel is a crucial and important step for the benefit of the entire medical system and it will be a leading school for studying medicine.”

Bennett said after the CHE voted in favor that the two-year campaign to found the medical school ended in a large victory. “The members of the Council for Higher Education made the right decision for the good of Israel, which is suffering from a serious shortage of doctors,” said Bennett. “This is a victory of common sense over narrow interests, and I am proud of it.”

The director general of the Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, said the health system needs more medical students who have studied and trained in Israel. “The new medical school will be a central pillar in the future training of a generation of doctors in Israel.” Bar Siman Tov thanked everyone involved in the completion of the long process of establishing the new faculty.