The Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria unanimously approved on Wednesday the establishment of the medical school at Ariel University, even though Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, which is responsible for funding higher education, objected to the plan.
In the afternoon, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit allowed the West Bank council to make the decision just hours before the council was meant to dissolve. On Thursday, the council’s authority is to be transferred to the Council for Higher Education in Israel.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement: “This is a huge victory for Israeli medicine. The good of the state triumphed over the petty politics of the university cartel. We won.”
Legal sources had described the move as “a blatantly underhanded move before this body dissolves in the midst of an election campaign.” The West Bank council operates under orders from the commander of the army’s Central Command, whose members are primarily right-wingers.
"It is not possible to state that the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria is not authorized to make a decision today," the attorney general said in response to the decision. "However, due to the importance of the decision and its expected broad influence on medical studies in Israel, and given that the authority of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria is expected to be transferred to the [Israel] Council for Higher Education in the coming days, it would [be] appropriate for the [Israel] Council for Higher Education to hold a discussion on the matter."
Mendelblit added that the discussion should take place within two months, so that the university, its lecturers and the medical school’s applicants can prepare for the decision.”
Ariel University welcomed the decision by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, saying: “Launching studies and growing the [medical] school in the future constitutes a significant part of resolving the shortage of study options for young doctors in Israel.”
The statement added that “the university is grateful for the attorney general’s decision, which shed proper light on the authority of the Planning and Budgeting Committee as an advisory body, and the authority of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria as the body to approve the opening of the medical school.”
The Planning and Budgeting Committee’s vote last week against starting the medical school was a reversal of an earlier decision, after it emerged that one committee member, Rivka Wadmany Shauman, was vying for a professorship at the university when she voted to support plans for the school.
Prof. Amos Altshuler, chairman of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, said Monday that a decision by the body under his leadership could override the decision by the Planning and Budgeting Committee. “We have to take it into account, but we have the power to decide. The Planning and Budgeting Committee decision is merely a recommendation.”
Shira Kadari Ovadia contributed to this report.