We have written about this regularly, to try to explain the phenomenon: The Prime Minister is the Head of Government in Israel, but the Defense Minister rules the occupied West Bank. [East Jerusalem — which was part of the West Bank from mid-May 1948 until 4 June 1967, is a different case for Israel, though not for international law: since its conquest in the June 1967 “Six-Day War”, Israel has tried to sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank in almost every way, including administratively in 1967; by the Basic Law declaring united Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel in 1980; and by The Wall which began to go up in 2003 and which has nearly enclosed what Israel wants from the Greater Jerusalem Municipal area by the time of this writing. East Jerusalem appears to be controlled by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Interior, the Israeli Border Police and national Police.]

Uri Avnery wrote in his weekly article sent on 22 January 2010 that “This week, [former Prime Minister and current Defense Minister, as well as Labor Party leader Ehud] Barak did something that should turn on a another red light. On the demand of [Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman, Barak accorded the Settlers’ college in Ariel the status of a university … Barak comes from the epicenter of old-time Israel. He grew up in a kibbutz, was a commander in the elite ‘General Staff commando’ and speaks perfect Hebrew with the right intonation. As a former Chief of Staff and a present Minister of Defense, he represents the might of the most formidable sector in Israel: the army. … The fatal blow dealt by Barak to the chances of peace came after the 2000 Camp David conference. To recount briefly: when he was elected in 1999 with a landslide majority, on the wave of enthusiasm of the peace camp and with the help of clear peace slogans (‘Education instead of Settlements!’), he induced Presidents Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat to meet him at a summit conference. In a typical mixture of arrogance and ignorance, he believed that if he offered the Palestinians the chance to found a Palestinian state, they would give up all their other claims. His offers were indeed more far-reaching than those of his predecessors, but still far from the minimum acceptable to Palestinians. The conference failed. Coming home from Camp David, he did not make the usual announcement (‘Much progress has been achieved and negotiations will continue…’), nor an unusual one (‘Sorry, I was wrong, I had no idea!’) Rather, he coined a mantra that has since become the center of the national consensus: ‘I have turned every stone on the way to peace / I have offered the Palestinians everything they could ask for / They have rejected everything / We Have No Partner For Peace’. This declaration by the leader of the Labor Party, who often calls himself ‘the head of the peace camp’, dealt a mortal blow to the Israeli peace forces, who had hoped so much from him. The vast majority of the Israelis believe now with all their heart that ‘we have no partner for peace’. Thereby he opened the way for the ascent to power of Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu. Throughout his time in office, Barak established and enlarged settlements. On his orders, the Commanding Officer of Central Command issued a permit for a radio station of the settlers (which has lately started to broadcast, after a long delaying fight by Gush Shalom against it.) … His decision about the Ariel university fits into this pattern.

‘WAIT A MINUTE!’ a sensible person may ask. ‘What has this to do with Barak? He is the Minister of Defense, isn’t he, and not the Minister of Education!’ Ariel is occupied territory. In the occupied territories, the army is the sovereign power. Barak is in charge of the army. The directive to upgrade the Ariel College was given by Barak to the commanding officer. As Yossi Sarid, a former Minister of Education, pointed out, the ‘Ariel University Center’ is the only civil university in the democratic world set up by the army. An Israeli academic institution has to go a long way before being accorded university status by the competent authorities. There are many colleges in Israel, far more outstanding than the Ariel College, which aspire to this status. In the occupied territories, a general’s approval is enough. This fact throws light on the unprecedented Israeli invention: the Eternal Occupation. An occupation regime is by its nature a temporary situation. It comes into being when one side in a war conquers territory of the other side. The occupying power is supposed to rule it, under detailed international laws, until the end of the war, when a peace agreement must decide the future of the territory. A war may last some years, at most, and therefore the occupation is a temporary matter. Successive Israeli governments have turned it into a permanent situation. Why? At the outset of the occupation, the then Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, discovered that the occupation is really an ideal situation. It gives the occupier absolute power without any obligation to accord the inhabitants any citizenship rights whatsoever. If Israel were to annex the territories, it would have to decide what to do with the population. That would create an embarrassing situation. The inhabitants of East Jerusalem, which was formally annexed to Israel in 1967, did not receive citizenship, but only the status of ‘residents’. [n.b. – it is true that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can apply for Israeli citizenship — but it has been more or less difficult to obtain, depending on the circumstances at any given time. Now, it is very difficult. In addition, most Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have not wanted to apply for Israeli citizenship, believing that would legitimize the whole occupation…] Successive Israeli governments have been afraid that the world would not accept a ‘democratic’ state in which a third of the population have no rights. A status of occupation solves all these problems. The inhabitants of the occupied territories have, de facto, no rights whatsoever – neither national, nor civil, nor human. The Israel government builds settlements wherever it sees fit, also contrary to international law, and now it is setting up a university, too …
THE SPANISH government has already declared a boycott of the Ariel college and cancelled its participation in an international architectural competition run by Spain … [A]n academic institution cannot be indifferent to a boycott by its peers around the world. And if the Israeli academic community does not rise up against this prostitution of its ideals by the setting up of a university of the settlers under military auspices – it is inviting a boycott on all Israeli universities”.

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