British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a strong condemnation Monday of the government’s decision to grant the Ariel University Center the status of a full university.
Hague said he was “very disappointed” by the decision to establish the first university “beyond the Green Line in a settlement that is illegal according to international law. This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.”
The government on Sunday approved the upgrading of the status of the Ariel University Center to that of a full fledged university even though a petition to block the matter is pending before the High Court of Justice.
Hague said the move was “particularly unfortunate” because it came at a time of widening cooperation between Israeli and British universities, with the British government taking “sharp measures against elements trying to delegitimize Israel through academic and cultural boycotts.”
“I call on the Israeli government to urgently reconsider its approach to this issue,” he said.
This was the highest level condemnation to date of the efforts to change the status of the Ariel University Center, with diplomatic officials saying the measure had not generated much international outcry because it did not physically change anything on the ground in the territories.
Had the government passed plans to build new buildings or dormitories on the campus rather than just change its status, one official said recently, the world’s reactions would likely have been much harsher.