Barak to Netanyahu: Hold Decision on West Bank University Until Court's Ruling

Defense minister's letter to premier comes after Israeli universities appeal the decision to upgrade Ariel college to university status.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to wait for the High Court ruling on the upgrading of Ariel College to the status of a university before making a decision on the matter.

Late last month, the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities filed a petition Monday in the High Court of Justice against the recognition of the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university. The only university to abstain from participating in the petition was Bar-Ilan University.

The petition targeted the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, the IDF Central Command commander, and the Israeli government, in particular the finance, education and defense ministers.

The petition claimed that the decision to make the Ariel institution a university, “is a seriously flawed decision, in its legality and reasonableness, and has substantive, significant flaws in terms of administrative law, including being tainted by conflict of interest, irrelevant considerations, being based on partial and erroneous data and other faults that go to the root of the matter, which requires its cancellation.

In a letter sent on Sunday, Barak wrotes that he recommended that the premier wait until the High Court delivers its ruling to the appeal, before reaching a final decision.

The defense minister said he formed the recommendation after discussing the matter with all the relevant officials, including Manuel Trajtenberg, chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, Prof Amos Altschule, the head of the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education, officials in Ariel college, as well as the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities

Late last month, it was reported that Barak has yet to decide whether or not to recognize the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university. Officials at the minister's office told Haaretz at the time that Barak plans to hold consultations with the Council for Higher Education and the Ariel University Center before he announces his decision.

Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer said in response to Barak's missive that the defense minister's decision marks the "return of a sane government priorities."

"The decision to make Ariel college into a university isn't professional and maybe illegal. Barak's unwillingness to sign [the decision] is the next logical step," Oppenheimer wrote.

Ariel college said that it excepted "the prime minister to show leadership and end the process that started with a government's decision in 2005, and confirm the decision by the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education by permanently recognizing the college as a university."