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University heads and senior faculty members failed to reach an agreement yesterday to end the longest university strike in Israeli history.

Prior to the meeting, university heads said they would cancel the academic year's first semester, unless the National Labor Court issued back-to-work orders to the striking professors who are demanding a pay raise.

"We've reached a very difficult moment," said Professor Moshe Kaveh, chairman of the university heads delegation.

"We sat the whole day, arguing over teaching hours, trying to get things to work, deliberating whether we can teach students until midnight in order to save the year. One university president thinks it's too late, the other thinks the last date is in a day or two."

If the semester is canceled, then universities will forfeit its government funding and will not be able to pay its salaries as a consequence.

"It is not at all certain whether one can run a university if a semester is canceled," Kaveh added. "What is the status of a university in such a situation? If a university cannot pay salaries then it should close."

When asked why the university heads keep deferring their deadline for announcing the cancellation of the semester, Kaveh responded: "Before you commit suicide, you try to gain another day or two. You can buy some time that way, but now it's only a matter of a few days."