Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday participated in a dedication ceremony for the new medical school at Ariel University in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, alongside donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.
The medical school is expected to open in 2019, but Ariel has been operating a premed program for four years.
Approval for the medical school in Ariel was criticized by many Israeli academics, who claimed it was rammed through at the insistence of Bennett, the head of the pro-settlement Habayit Hayehudi party, in violation of the usual academic standards.
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Bennett rejected this criticism, even after the council of university heads sent a highly critical letter on the subject warning that it would result in a “loss of trust.”
Bennett responded at the time that the country’s other universities were behaving like a “cartel,” a charge he repeated at Sunday’s ceremony.
“Establishing this faculty was like doing dental work while 20 people are trying to stop it,” he said. “There’s a university cartel in Israel,” Bennett said.
Referring to the Interdisciplinary Center, the private research college in Herzliya, Bennett continued: “They tried to stop us from establishing a private university together with the marvelous Prof. Uriel Reichman, and again here in Ariel. A year and a half ago, we said a medical school would be established here. And today, it has been established.”
Among those attending Sunday’s dedication in addition to Bennett were President Reuven Rivlin, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog and American-Jewish casino magnate and Republican Party financial supporter Sheldon Adelson and his physician wife, Miriam Adelson.
It was the Adelsons’ major financial contribution that made it possible to establish the medical school.
Sheldon Adelson had for many years been a major supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and established a pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper, Israel Hayom. Netanyahu attended the last dedication ceremony but was not invited to Sunday’s event.
At the ceremony, Sheldon Adelson lamented that "young talent has been leaving for alternative universities. In other words, the Jewish state sends Jews abroad to become Jewish doctors [. . .] Ariel University will start changing that."
Rivlin, in his remarks in praise of Ariel University, said in part, “when they were disparaging, all of you built. When they yelled, you created. You created a model institution,” adding that it was an institution “with a place for every student without distinction over race, color, religion or sex.”