Israel’s Knesset voted Monday to make Ariel University in Samaria the state’s ninth accredited institution of higher learning.  The vote officially places the university under the auspices of Israel’s Council for Higher Education.  Parliamentarians voted in favor of the bill, 56-35.

Full accreditation will enable Ariel University to advance plans to develop a medical school.

Ariel, one of Israel’s largest Jewish settlements, has approximately 20,000 residents.  Accreditation of the university had been difficult to achieve, in part due to its location in ‘”Area C,” a section of the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control.  No other Israeli universities are located in the disputed territories.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin celebrated the Knesset vote in a tweet, urging the government to apply full Israeli law across the entire region, writing since “applying Israeli sovereignty on Ariel University, let’s begin to apply Israeli sovereignty on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria,” Elkin tweeted.

In the days leading up to the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tabled a scheduled vote in the Likud Central Committee that would push the government toward extending Israeli law throughout the entire West Bank, insisting that any such initiatives would need to be fully coordinated with the United States.

“On the subject of applying sovereignty, I can say that I have been talking to the Americans about it for some time,” Netanyahu reportedly told a faction of his Likud party Monday.

Yet, the White House has denied that any such conversations have been taking place.  “Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false,” said White House spokesman Josh Raffel on Monday. “The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.”