Arab outpost in Israel will be a move to peace

June 25, 2004

A planned outpost of a Jordanian university in Israel will be the first Arab institution to be opened in the country, other than the Jordanian and Egyptian embassies and airline offices.

The chosen president of the Israel branch of Al-Ahliyya University in Jordan, Eytan Bentsur, a former director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, described the plan as a revolutionary step with far-reaching consequences for regional peace.

A request for a licence to operate in Israel was lodged with Israel's Council for Higher Education this week.

Mr Bentsur set up contacts between Jordanian entrepreneurs Nizar and Anan Darawshe and Israel's Education Minister Limor Livnat.

The Darawshe brothers already fund the studies of 400 Israelis of Arab and Druze backgrounds at Al-Ahliyya.

Mr Bentsur said the Darawshes had the aim of creating a "peace university, a university that would give the opportunity to students from the entire region to study in Israel on a purely academic level, but also that would include the notion of good neighbourly relations and all the values of peace".

When initial funding efforts for the university proved unsuccessful, Mr Bentsur suggested the idea to Mahar Hourani, owner of the Al-Ahliyya branch in Amman, and to the Darawshes.

Despite opposition from some Arab countries, including within Jordan, Mr Hourani is determined to open the Israel branch of Al-Ahliyya, which at the moment has 7,000 students overall.

Mr Bentsur foresaw no problem in meeting the standards set by the CHE to secure a licence to operate in Israel. He said: "The idea is to have students coming from all over the country, although one would expect there to be a predominance from the Arab sector."

Ms Livnat said: "I am delighted at this special request and see it as a positive step towards strengthening the spirit of peace and our national interests."

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