Israel to Reopen 6 Universities in West Bank and Gaza Strip
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on Monday ordered the gradual reopening of six Palestinian universities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip that have been closed for more than two years.
The move is likely to improve Israel’s relations with the United States. They have been strained in recent weeks over Shamir’s increasing Jewish settlement activity in the occupied lands.
The army closed the six universities shortly after a Palestinian uprising broke out in December, 1987. The government said the universities were hotbeds of anti-Israeli violence. The United States and Western Europe had sharply criticized the measure as collective punishment.
Shamir spokesman Avi Pazner said Monday that the prime minister instructed his adviser for the occupied lands, Shmuel Goren, to meet with the heads of the universities to discuss conditions of the reopening.
Goren said the first university will open within two days. There are five universities in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip, with a total of 18,000 students.
Although he said authorities were encouraged by the declining bloodshed in recent months, Goren told reporters that if violence recurs, the facilities will be closed.
Pazner and Goren denied that the decision is aimed at appeasing the United States.
“We hope it will bring us a good reaction from the United States and Europe, but our main consideration was security,” Goren said.
The six universities are Bethlehem University, Islamic University, Birzeit University, Hebron University, An-Najah University and Jerusalem University.