Israel finally OKs medical school at West Bank university

A view of the Ariel University campus in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Jan. 25, 2017. (Sebi Berens/Flash90) 

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The third vote was the charm for a medical school at a West Bank university.

Israel’s Council for Higher Education approved the establishment of the school at Ariel University on Thursday in a 13-5 vote.

In February, the council voted against opening the school after initially approving it in July. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the second vote after discovering that one of the voting members had a conflict of interest.

The mirror Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria voted in February to approve the school. The two councils have since combined.

The Ariel school is planning an October launch with 70 students. Without government accreditation, its students would not have been able to train at hospitals in Israel.

There are five other medical schools in Israel, an insufficient number to train the number of doctors needed in the country.

Ariel had fought for many years to be considered a full-fledged university, and faced opposition from Israel’s other public universities, which feared splitting government funds more ways, and an increase in calls for academic boycotts of all Israeli professors because of its West Bank location.

American casino magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson donated $20 million to the university in 2017 to expand, including building the medical school that is to be named for him and his wife, Miriam, a physician who was born in Israel. The couple attended the inauguration ceremony for the school in August.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the Council for Higher Education, brought the recommendation to the council. He called the vote a “great victory” in a post on Facebook.

“This is a triumph of common sense over narrow interest, and I am proud of it,” Bennett said in a statement.