Leaders of the student union will close down Tel Aviv University beginning on Monday morning. They have chained the gates shut, and will not let anyone enter the campus. For the past week, students throughout the country have been demonstrating against tuition increases.
As far as I understand Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor), a former professor, has made an offer to the students that would see a 3% decrease in their tuition. However, the students are now holding out with the demand that changes in tuition ought to be arrived at through negotiations between students and the government rather than being imposed on them. The ministry of education is refusing to acquiesce to these demands (Ha'aretz, English).
The escalation in the students' tactics follows a threat by "Vera" (וועדת ראשי האויניברסיטאות, the Committee of the Heads of the Universities) that students taking part in strikes and not attending classes will lose the semester. Vera has since withdrawn this ultimatum, but strikes are going ahead anyway (Ynet). Student leaders interviewed on national radio said that they wanted to demonstrate the unity of the entire student body (Gala"tz, Monday 7:30 am Israel Time).
Nehemia Strasler, in a recent Ha'aretz piece, "The students should also pay," criticizes the opposition of the student union leadership to the original reforms proposed by the Shohat Committee, which would have seen an increase in tuition fees. Tuition fees currently pay for 16% of the universities' budgets, while the "evil and miserly state funds 70 percent of it" (Strasler), and private donations cover the remaining 14%.
Strasler seems to be especially angry about the rhetoric used by the student union leadership:
(...) all of these logical arguments make no impression on the student leaders. Itay Sonschein, chairman of the National Students Union and the leader of the strike, has disproportionate revolutionary zeal. He sees the Shochat Committee (which is comprised of the top experts in the field) as a destructive capitalist plot. As far as he is concerned, everything is justified for the sake of dismantling the committee, chalking up a victory and proceeding up the trajectory of party politics - and to hell with what is good for academia and the economy.There is a sense among quite a few people in the country that Israel is moving inexorably toward "Americanization" and that the "weaker sectors" are bearing a disproportionate burden. I am not an economist, but Israel's social and economic problems are serious enough to merit more attention than they have been receiving over the past decade. It's unfortunate, however, that at a time like this student leaders are playing "revolutions" in order to fulfill their juvenile fantasies and ambitions.