Israeli Cabinet Set to Vote on Status of Ariel College

Approval would be symbolic, since decision depends on High Court, and Attorney General.

The cabinet will vote on Sunday on a resolution recognizing the Ariel University Center of Samaria as a university.

More precisely, it would instruct GOC Central Command Brig. Gen Nitzan Alon to approve the resolution, which was passed by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria in July.

A cabinet resolution would be symbolic, since the controversial change to the status of the institution, which is located in the West Bank city of Ariel, must first be approved by the High Court of Justice and then by the attorney general.

"The cabinet ascribes national importance to the conversion of Ariel University Center to a university and instructs the necessary measures be taken to confirm the resolution on this matter that was passed by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, in accordance with the opinion of the attorney general," reads the proposal that will be submitted to the cabinet today during its regular weekly meeting.

The vague wording of the resolution is a result of the legal and political mess surrounding the educational institution.

After the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities petitioned the High Court against the upgrade, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that all measures pertaining to the issue would be suspended until the legal process was completed.

The defense minister, who is responsible for the government's actions in the West Bank, has said he does not want to be a "rubber stamp," and wants to conduct discussions on the political and economic implications of upgrading the institution's status.

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early last week, Barak wrote that he supports putting the issue before the cabinet after the High Court issues its ruling.

As noted above, the resolution stipulates that it will only be enacted with the approval of the court and the attorney general. The latter, Yehuda Weinstein, has not expressed his opinion on the matter.

The decision to put the issue to a cabinet vote in a vaguely worded resolution with mainly symbolic value was the result of heavy pressure on Netanyahu from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, a large number of right-wing Knesset members, and the settler lobby in Likud and the Knesset.

Sa'ar, who is tabling the cabinet resolution, said last week that Barak is not authorized to postpone a decision on the institution's upgrade. "The cabinet, not the defense minister, is supposed to instruct the GOC Central Command on such issues," Sa'ar said.