For the second consecutive week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will not hold its weekly meeting on Sunday amid an escalating row between the Likud and Jewish Home parties.
The Jewish Home is angry over the Likud’s decision to oppose the Ariel University Law, which would normalize the status of all Israeli institutions of higher learning located in Judea and Samaria. At present, schools like Ariel University, Orot College in Elkana, and Herzog College in Gush Etzion are not under the authority of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, and are instead administered by a separate Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.
However, the Likud has announced that it will oppose the bill in retaliation for Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem’s decision to block a bill by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) that would lower the Tender Years Clause to two years of age. Under Israel’s present Tender Years Clause, in case of divorce, children stay with the mother until the youngest is at least six years old, at which point the father can petition for shared custody.
Sources close to Kish blamed Bennett for delaying the Ariel University Law from advancing. “Bennett is trying to turn the confrontation over the Tender Years Clause Law into a confrontation between the Jewish home and the Likud,” a source told Arutz Sheva. “Bennett is like a little boy who does not stand by his word. Kish refuses to advance the Ariel University Bill until the Tender Years Clause is passed.”
Senior officials at Ariel University criticized MK Kish and said he is hurting their efforts to open a new medical school. “Kish is acting in a dangerous way,” they said. “We call on MK Kish to put all other considerations to promote the legislation that will enable Ariel University to develop and take an important role in advancing the issue of medicine in Israel.”
Tensions within the government boiled over during a coalition gathering last week when the Education Minister slammed Netanyahu’s handling of the issue. “Why are you behaving like this?” Netanyahu reportedly said to Bennett, as the conversation descended into a shouting match. “You’re destroying the integrity of the coalition!”
Bennett retorted, “I’m running the best functioning party [in the coalition]. We’re there for every [Knesset] vote. We don’t have any Sharren Haskels or [Rachel] Azariyahs,” continued Bennett, referencing Likud MK Sharren Haskel and Kulanu MK Rachel Azariya’s opposition to the “Supermarket Law” pushed by the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.
“You’ve let the Ariel University Law sit there for a whole month.” At that point, the confrontation escalated, with Netanyahu responding “This isn’t how you get things done. This is very serious. If you want to break up the coalition, so then break it up!”
The Judea and Samaria Institute of Higher Learning was first created in the 1990’s as a way to get around bureaucratic problems delaying the accreditation of Ariel University. Students studying at Judea and Samaria’s three colleges often complained about the bureaucratic hurdles they needed to jump through in order to advance their studies, such as having to have a Ph.D. from Ariel University registered with the Education Ministry as if it was received overseas.