Attorney General Orders Revote on Med School in West Bank Settlement

Move due to conflict of interest of member of Council for Higher Education, who has been banned from new debate this week

President Reuven Rivlin, far left, along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and at right Miriam and Sheldon Edelson at the ceremony inaugurating the medical school at Ariel University in the West Bank, August 19, 2018
Meged Gozani

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has ordered the Council for Higher Education of Israel to convene and hold another vote on whether to allow Ariel University to establish a medical school. In late December the Justice Ministry warned the university not to take any irreversible steps toward establishment of the school and to advise students applying to it that it might never open.

The medical school, planned to be built on the university's campus in the West Bank, was supposed to open in September and was to be funded in large part by a donation of $20 million from American Jewish businessman Sheldon Adelson.

>> How Israel founded the Adelson medical school: In haste and against all advice

The reason to revisit the decision, Mendelblit said, is that a member of the CHE's planning and budgeting subcommittee, Dr. Rivka Wadmany Shauman, apparently acted despite a conflict of interest by voting in favor of the move just as the university was discussing her promotion to professor.

Two of the attorney general's deputies, Dina Zilber and Raz Nizri, have prohibited Wadmany Shauman from participating in the new debate and vote, slated to take place on Thursday. Also, another CHE member, Zvi Hauser, is not allowed to take part because in the meantime he has joined Benny Gantz’s new political party, Hosen L’Yisrael.

The deputies also noted that in its discussion, the council should consider Ariel University’s arguments – among them, the potential harm to students and lecturers who had hoped to enroll and teach at the medical school, and the greater good of the public.

Mendelblit wrote that Wadmany Shauman should have recused herself from handling anything pertaining to Ariel University at least from the date she applied for a professorship, that is, beginning in January 2018.

It appears that among the five remaining members of the CHE, the majority opposes allowing the medical school at Ariel to be founded.

Members of the CHE are prohibited from participating in decisions about the institution employing them, to preclude any potential conflict of interest. When Wadmany Shauman’s relationship with Ariel University was revealed in Haaretz in December 2018, the administration stated that she wasn’t a faculty member and that the decision to create the med school was based on the recommendations of a professional committee, and due to the acute shortage of physicians in the country.

For her part Wadmany Shauman stated that she didn’t know about the rules involving the promotion process and that it had nothing to do with her vote.

Wadmany Shauman was named vice chairwoman of the CHE in early 2016 by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the committee’s chairman, after he ousted Hagit Messer-Yaron of Tel Aviv University from that role. In 2017 Wadmany Shauman stopped serving in it and became a member of the council's budgeting committee.

Last year it was reported that the medical school’s establishment would be funded by Adelson, who is also the owner of the free Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom. The school is to be named after Adelson and his wife Miriam.