A member of Israeli’s Council for Higher Education has resigned over the government’s recognition of Ariel University, which operates in the West Bank. Ora Limor, the former Open University historian, said that the recognition marks a point when the Council for Higher Education become a tool in Israeli politics rather than a body that concerns itself purely with education-related issues.
In her resignation letter to Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Limor wrote that the move also harmed the council’s credibility as an education regulator. Earlier this month Sa’ar forced a vote on the recognition of Ariel University Center of Samaria even over council member protests that the territories did not form a part of their brief. More than half of the council members boycotted the vote in protest.
Limor criticized what she said was the absence of a discussion about whether an additional university was necessary, where it should be located and what should be the criteria for establishing it. She said the way in which the government adopted the recommendation of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, a separate body, to upgrade the status of the college in Ariel was “problematic (to say the least).”
She said that a shortened timeline forced by the Sa’ar’s call for an unscheduled meeting made the council seem not like an oversight body for the country’s higher education system, but as a rubber-stamp of government policies. The vote came less than two weeks prior to the national general election, as well as prior to scheduled arguments before the High Court of Justice on a lawsuit protesting Ariel’s state recognition.
“Under these circumstances, and so as not to be party to these actions, I have no recourse but to submit my resignation,” wrote Limor. The council vote could affect the High Court hearing, since the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities is arguing that the West Bank education council does not have the authority to upgrade the Ariel center to a university, and that its decision contravenes the position of the Council for Higher Education’s planning and budgeting committee.
However, since the vote, the government’s position in the lawsuit has been strengthened because now it can plausibly argue that the council approved the recognition.
Limor further added that when she took up the position as a member of CHE, she was promised that her academic background mattered most — not her political views. She concluded that when the council was forced to act as a tool of politicians, it became clear that her experience was no longer relevant to the job she was being asked to perform.