U.K. Urges Israel to 'Reconsider' Approval of West Bank College's Upgrade

In statement, Foreign Secretary William Hague hints at the possible negative repercussions the move may have on Israel-Britain academic ties.

Barak Ravid
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Barak Ravid

In the first international response of the cabinet's decision to approve the update of a West Bank college to university statues, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague severely condemned the move, hinting at the possible repercussions the resolution may have on academic ties between Britain and Israel.

On Sunday, the government voted overwhelmingly in favor of recognizing the Ariel University Center of Samaria as an accredited university, with Netanyahu saying that "Ariel is an inseparable part of Israel and it will remain that way under any future agreement."

Every minister voted in favor of accrediting the university center, except Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Agriculture Minister Orit Noked.

On Monday, Hague said in a statement that he was “very disappointed" by the decision to approve the potential upgrading of the Ariel college, saying the move "would further entrench the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and create an additional barrier to peace with the Palestinians."

In a likely reference to the decisions possible effect on academic ties between the two nations, the U.K. foreign secretary said the decision was "particularly regrettable because it comes at a time of rapidly expanding co-operation between U.K. 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."

"I call on the Government of Israel to reconsider its approach as a matter of urgency,” he added.

Speaking following the vote on Sunday, one Israeli university official said that Ariel was a political college, and that the "absurd" idea to promote it stems from the fact that it has political patron.

The Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities said that "this is political decision there is no need for another university in Israel. This is a step that serves coalition and political interests and is bound to spell disaster for higher education in Israel." 

British Foreign Secretary William Hague speaking during a news conference in New York, August 30, 2012. Credit: Reuters