Ariel as a Showcase for Israel

The way the college founded there was subsequently turned into a university epitomizes the government's warped modes of thought and action.

Ariel, the new university town, is the symbol of Israel and its true showcase. The settlement, which lies some 20 kilometers east of the Green Line, was from the start intended to drive a wedge into the heart of the West Bank so that it would be impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state there. The way the college founded there was subsequently turned into a university is a direct continuation of this goal, and epitomizes the government's warped modes of thought and action.

The college also demonstrates Israel's real order of priorities. Its status was changed arrogantly, via a process that rode roughshod over academic rules and blatantly ignored the accepted criteria for Israeli universities.

But what Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar did should not be viewed as ordinary political corruption. They were not merely trying to buy the votes of Likud party activists in the territories; what they wanted was to do their bit toward annexing the West Bank.

To that end, no price was deemed too high. For everyone knows that building a university from scratch requires enormous resources in terms of both money and manpower. Everyone also understands that a university in Ariel will drag the entire system down and be a stain on the reputation of Israeli science and research.

The establishment of an academic institution by the settlement organization known as the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education - a body whose very existence shows contempt for the Israeli academic world - will also provide an opening and a pretext for a widespread international boycott. Until now, every attempt to boycott Israeli academic institutions has failed, thanks to the personal stature of Israeli scholars. But the truth is that it was the left that successfully blocked and repulsed these boycotts. The time has now come to put this mission in the hands of the new university and its patrons.

It would be interesting to know how former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who headed the committee that recently concluded the West Bank isn't occupied territory, would answer the two questions he has so far overlooked: What weight should the desires of the occupied population be given in determining the status of the territories? And from what source does the occupier derive the authority to ride roughshod over this population's right to self-determination?

The government doesn't have enough money to house the homeless, nor will it in the future, because from the nationalist standpoint, they are useless people. But every family in the outpost of Migron will cost the taxpayer almost three quarters of a million shekels to relocate, because in the Likud's eyes, this is the true meaning of Zionism.

Steinitz and Sa'ar did not enter the Knesset and the cabinet in order to make peace, to preserve the system of higher education created through generations of effort, or to establish a real welfare state, but rather to gain control of the entire Land of Israel. They are not merely afraid of the settlers; they themselves are settlers.

One cannot say the same about the opposition, but this is precisely where the true problem of Israeli politics lies: Its leaders do not have the courage to sever themselves from the past. All those who oppose the government are aware that the right is marching Israel toward a binational state that will destroy its raison d'etre. But they are all captives of the same wretched idee fixe which holds that there is a consensus about the territories, and therefore, anyone who wishes to survive politically cannot reject the settlements.

The founding father of this concept was Shimon Peres, during whose term as defense minister in the 1970s the settlement of Elon Moreh near Nablus, which paved the road to the settlement of this part of the West Bank, was established. Defense Minister Ehud Barak - Peres' successor as Labor Party chairman and the man to whom we owe the second intifada - followed in his footsteps, and now the torch has been passed to current Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich.

Why did this talented woman have to burden herself with all the giant mistakes and failures made by the party over generations? Why did she decide to march down the path charted by those two defectors from Labor, at a time when both political logic and moral duty demand an unambiguous, comprehensive and determined stance against the right? Cowardice, even when it is wrapped in a cloak of sophistication and so-called pragmatism, has never been considered a recipe for victory.