Amman University Wants Israel Branch

Representatives of Jordan's Al-Ahliyya Amman University met with Education Minister Limor Livnat yesterday for talks on opening an extension of the institute of higher learning in Israel. The university's director and owner, Maher Hurani, told Livnat he was determined to establish ties with Israel despite threats and opposition voiced against the move by elements in the Arab world and Jordan.

"I am happy about the request and see it as a boost to the spirit of peace and a national interest," Livnat said after the meeting, which was also attended by Shosh Berlinsky, the director-general of the Council for Higher Education.

Berlinsky said the council would review the issue of the university's registration and licensing in keeping with the accepted standards.

Hurani told Livnat that in the wake of his proposal to establish the branch in Israel, he received a letter from 500 Syrian students at Al-Ahliyya Amman University who informed him they would leave the institute should the move go ahead.

The connection between Livnat, who also chairs the Council for Higher Education, and Hurani was forged by former director-general of the Education Ministry Eitan Ben-Tsur, who is slated for the post of the president of the Al-Ahliyya extension in Israel.

A number of possible initial sites for the extension have already been examined, including a hotel in Nahariya and a building in Emek Hefer. Under the plans in the works, the buildings will be leased for three years, during which time the new university's campus will be built.

The university is expected to primarily serve the Arab sector; but at yesterday's meeting, Hurani said he would also like to see Jewish students and Arab students from other countries in the region at the institute.

Al-Ahliyya Amman University is Jordan's first private university and was established in 1990. The institute is owned by the Hurani family, which has business interests in Jordan, Lebanon and Dubai in the fields of industry and tourism.

The university caters to some 7,000 students, including from Syria, Iraq, the United States, Japan and Israel, and offers bachelors degrees in six faculties - engineering, medicine and pharmacology, computer sciences, the humanities and the arts, law, and economics and business administration.

During yesterday's meeting, Hurani invited Livnat to visit Jordan to address students on education in Israel. Livnat said she was considering the invitation.