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Ariel Upgraded towards Israeli Elections

 

 

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On the last week of January 2010, Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak decided to change the name of Ariel College into Ariel University Center. It stirred some waters, but eventually the topic died, as expected, this is known in Hebrew as the “Salami System:” slice and eat, slice and eat. Colleges are foreign to Israeli educational system which follows the European; they were introduced to solve the problem of the many people rejected by regular universities. Several colleges were created; the one in Ariel would accept anybody capable of breathing and voting for the right party. Next stage took place on September 10, 2012, when Netanyahu’s government approved the upgrade of the institution into a full university. “Ariel will always be a part of Israel,” said Netanyahu forgetting to add that the decision must still be approved by the High Court of Justice and the Attorney General. The decision to found Ariel was taken by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who in 1977 formed Israel’s first right wing government; Ariel is dear to the Likud, and Israel is approaching general elections to the Knesset. Upgrade time!

Ariel

Ariel

Ariel in Samaria

Ariel in Samaria

The event looks odd. Why did the Minister of Defense and Prime Minister approve a university? Isn’t that the job of the Minister of Education? Geographically, Ariel is within the Salfit Governorate of the Palestinian Authority and thus not part of the State of Israel. All the settlers are there in clear violation of Geneva’s Fourth Convention and are thus international criminals. As a settlement it is under direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, which replaces all other government ministries through its Civil Administration. Among the West Bank settlements, Ariel is special in more ways than one; Netanyahu's recent decision is a reminder of that.

Most Israelis avoid visiting the West Bank. If asked, they’ll claim it is due to safety reasons. In fact, they have no reason to go there. The settlements do not look like Israeli towns or villages; they resemble American utopian suburbs. They are populated mainly by an odd mix of Americans and Russians who don’t really relate to mainstream Israel, and who politically belong to the extreme right. Moreover, they are placed among Palestinian villages. Overall, Israelis avoid the area. Ariel is different. It was founded by Israelis; Hebrew is spoken on its streets.

The map accompanying the paragraph above is misleading. It shows Ariel roughly at the center of Samaria. The settlement is 40km from the Mediterranean coast, and the same distance separates it from the Jordan River. Despite the geographical correctness of these facts, they are deceptive. The close-up map below shows the reality as seen by travelers to the town arriving from Tel Aviv along Route #5. In a parcel to parcel job, the early Likud governments ethnically cleansed the road to Ariel. You can travel from Tel Aviv to Ariel without seeing any Palestinian settlements. Thus, it is accessible; placing a university with low admission requirements makes it even more attractive.

 

Ariel | Note the details of the West Bank Wall

Ariel | Note the details of the West Bank Wall

 

Unlike Israeli cities and councils, Ariel’s territory isn’t continuous but includes three different areas separated by grounds owned by Palestinians. Overall, the town’s territory is about five kilometers long and 700 meters wide. The town is surrounded by a fence, meaning Palestinians do not have access to their territories within the municipality. This was done on purpose, so that Israel confiscated less territory than it occupied later. In 1989 it was awarded the status of city. In January 2010 Netanyahu declared it Capital of Samaria (a title technically empty of meaning). On December of the same year, thirty-five MKs petitioned the Israeli government to annex Ariel.

After reviewing all these facts, it becomes clear there is a special interest in this settlement and the ones surrounding it, usually referred to as the Ariel Block. The interest is threefold. The first reason is the Second Corridor (see Reviving Burma Road), an alternative route between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. After ethnically cleansing the road from Tel Aviv to Ariel, a great part of the task has been accomplished. Road 60, the second part of the road—from Ariel to Jerusalem—has often been featured in this website. The second is the planning of Ariel as an expansion of “Gush Dan.” Namely meaning “Dan’s Block,” this is the name given to the seven cities occupying central Israel, with Tel Aviv at the very center. This metropolis is the financial and commercial center of the country. By now it has stagnated, lacking expansion lands. I recently commented on Netanyahu’s decision to renew studies on the construction of large islands in front of Tel Aviv; but another solution is the annexation of the Ariel Block. Looking carefully at the large map above, one can see the Barkan Industrial Area just before Ariel. This is one of the solutions offered to industry in the area, which finds itself constantly pushed away from the metropolis. Nobody wants to spoil the “White City” with cheese factories. As well, this process is isolating Kalkilya—a Palestinian city—from the West Bank. Despite having a population of less than twenty-thousand, Ariel features two substantial industrial areas, including one defined as “heavy;” in 2008, Israel approved the construction of another 27 factories. These are astounding numbers. The third is the fact that Ariel sits on an access point to the Mountain Acquifer, the main fresh water reserve between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. There, water is worth more than gold.

Considering all this, Ariel is probably the most strategic Israeli settlement in the West Bank. It is also deeply related to the Likud, which in recent years has found itself on the defensive against more militant settlers. That was enough for Netanyahu to award the status of university to a high-school-level establishment, known worldwide for its invaluable contributions in the research of the History of the Likud. On elections day, this is worth expensive votes. On Judgment Day, this will be worth condemnation.

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