Education Minister Naftali Bennett presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with an ultimatum at Sundays meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation: Advance legislation placing West Bank colleges and Ariel University under the aegis of the Council for Higher Education in Israel, thus placing them under Israeli law, or the committee will stop meeting and other legislation will be stalled. Following the ultimatum, Bennett instructed the committees chairwoman and his No. 2 in Habayit Hayehudi, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, to adjourn the meeting.
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Netanyahu and Bennett clashed later at a meeting of coalition heads at which the prime minister issued a veiled threat to dismantle the government. As reported today by the Israel Television News Company, Netanyahu told Bennett at the meeting: Why are you acting like this? It breaks coalition discipline, to which Bennett replied: I head the most disciplined party. They come to every vote. Bennett accused Likud of holding back the Ariel University Law for a month already. Netanyahu shot back: This is no way to work. This is very serious! If you want to break things up, lets break it up.
Applying Israeli law to academic institutions in the West Bank has been delayed due to a clash between MK Yoav Kish (Likud) and MK Shuli Moalem Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), who initiated the law. The clash between the two stems from a bill, which Kish framed, to lower the age at which children are automatically placed in the custody of the mother in cases of divorce, which is now 6 years old.
Kish, who is chairman of the Knesset House Committee, confirmed to Haaretz that he has refused to advance a bill initiated by Moalem Refaeli. Kish said other bills she has framed have been placed at the bottom of the list of his committees priorities because of the dispute between the two. Kishs bill on childrens age in custody cases is one of the most controversial now before the coalition.
Academic institutions in the West Bank are currently under the authority of the Council for Higher Education of Judea and Samaria. The proposal to disband that body and apply Israeli law to academic institutions in the West Bank was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, and also passed in a preliminary vote in the Knesset last month. Since then, however, it has been stuck in the Knesset committee, which has to decide what committee the bill should go to for completion of the legislative process.
Over the past few days, Bennett had twice asked Netanyahus bureau to move ahead more quickly on the bill. When that didnt work, he instructed Shaked to adjourn the ministerial committee meeting after it had already started. After voting on one bill, governing Channel 20, the meeting was disbanded, although dozens of other bills were on its agenda.
The bill on the academic institutions is one of a series proposed by Habayit Hayehudi and the coalition which are intended to apply Israeli law slowly but surely to the settlements.