Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday called for Israel to reconsider its recent upgrade of a college located in the West Bank city of Ariel to a full university.
Hague said the approval of the measure, which makes Ariel University Centre of Samaria into a state-funded university, would entrench Israel’s presence in the West Bank and create ‘a barrier to peace’.
‘I am very disappointed by last night’s decision by the Israeli cabinet to approve the potential upgrading of Ariel College,’ Hague said, using the school’s original name. ‘This would lead to the creation of Israel’s first university beyond the Green Line, in a settlement illegal under international law.’
On Sunday, the government voted in favour of recognising the Ariel University Centre of Samaria as an accredited university. The cabinet resolution is largely symbolic, as the move still needs to be approved by the attorney general, the High Court, and signed off by Defence Minister Ehud Barak – who was one of the ministers who voted against the decision in cabinet.
Hague in his statement added that ‘this move is particularly regrettable because it comes at a time of rapidly expanding cooperation between UK and Israeli universities, and when the British government has taken a firm stand against those who seek to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by boycotting educational and cultural institutions’.
The Ariel University Centre of Samaria was founded in 1982 and before the cabinet’s decision on Sunday was Israel’s largest public college. The centre has hundreds of Arab and Druze Israelis among its more than 10,000 students.