Israel approves West Bank settlement university law

Israel’s parliament has approved legislation that will bring higher education institutions in the West Bank settlements under Israeli law.

The bill, which will bring Ariel University in Samaria and other colleges under the auspices of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, passed all three rounds of voting in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. It was passed with 56 in favour of the law and 36 against. It will end the role of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.

Scholars had warned that campaigns for an academic boycott of the country were likely to be ramped up if the law was implemented. There were also concerns that the legislation would result in a reduction in overseas funding.

In particular, the law might break agreements Israel has made with the European Union to maintain a separation between academic institutions in the settlements, which are viewed as illegal under international law, and those in Israel proper. This could result in Israel being excluded from the EU’s research and innovation framework programme.

Critics of the bill, which was sponsored by the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi Party, have argued that it amounts to the first annexation to Israel of a part of the occupied territories in 50 years, since the country captured East Jerusalem in 1967.

A campaign against the law spearheaded by Amiram Goldblum, emeritus professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, gained the support of 220 senior academics in Israel.

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