Sociable

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Letter from Jerusalem

In our very first lessons on the British constitution we were impressed with the most salient of facts to the effect that the British Parliament can turn a man into a woman (or vice versa). This, it turns out, was excellent intellectual and psychological preparation for understanding what is happening in the Israeli settlement of Ariel, before our very eyes.

Today’s issue of the Israeli daily, Ma’ariv, informs us that the next meeting on the Israeli cabinet is going to turn the College of Judea and Samaria into a university. It appears that the initiative is coming from the Minister for Education, Limor Livnat. Ms. Livnat, it transpires, has granted her acquiescence to Sharon’s Gaza Disengagement Plan conditionally.

The condition – you guessed it – is to intensify settlement in the West Bank. Livnat figures that the ‘new university’ will attract additional population to the Ariel area. She is also certain, according to the same source, that there will not be any difficulty concerning her initiative which has reportedly received the backing of Ariel Sharon, with the United States, which has given its blessing to the settlement blocs, Ariel included. Thus if all goes well, the Israeli government will turn a college previously established by fiat of a military officer in the occupation, into a full fledged university. Livan claims that there is no financial problem involved since the College is already funded by the Israeli Council of Higher Education.

Those who follow the vagaries of Israeli internal politics must appreciate that Livnat’s gambit is also a brilliant counter-maneuver against Shimon Peres’ initiative to establish a new, ninth Israeli university in the Galilee. Peres’s initiative has received the enthusiastic backing of the Labor Party’ especially as he is going around brandishing a $100,000,000. check from former Israeli mogul, Arnon Milchen. The Council for Higher Education is against the Galilee plan because it has learned the hard lesson that philanthropists like to fork out sums for buildings named after them or their dear ones. But this doesn’t mean a hill of beans when it comes to paying salaries and keeping the floors clean.

Even so, the CJS might well become a university by virtue of a cabinet decision. There will be no difficulty in finding a name for the new university: the George W. Bush University (OT).

Stay posted for further developments. You may have discerned that your correspondent is a bit obsessed by this story.