Britain’s foreign secretary called Monday for Israel to reconsider its recent upgrade to a full university of a school located in a West Bank settlement.
William Hague said the approval of the measure to make Ariel University Center of Samaria into Israel’s eighth state-funded university would further entrench the Jewish state’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 to upgrade the school, located in the settlement of Ariel. The vote was largely symbolic as the move must still be approved by the attorney general and the High Court, and signed off by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In July, the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria voted to upgrade the school following a contentious battle.
Detractors from Israeli academia and the left have said the school will funnel much-needed funding away from existing institutions while furthering Israel’s presence in the West Bank.
Hague said the move ran against recent efforts to beef up cooperation between Israeli and British institutions of higher learning.
“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,” he said.