Sa'ar rejects UK criticism of Ariel college upgrade

Likud minister defends upgrading W. Bank school to university: Our connection to Ariel no less than England's to Falkland Islands.

Gideon Saar at UNESCO 311 (photo credit: Education Ministry)
Gideon Saar at UNESCO 311
(photo credit: Education Ministry)
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) on Saturday slammed British criticism of Israel’s decision to upgrade Ariel University Center to full university status, saying Israel’s connection to Ariel was no less than England's bond to the Falkland Islands.
British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement released Thursday that the United Kingdom was “deeply disappointed” over the Ariel University upgrade.
“Ariel is beyond the Green Line in a settlement that is illegal according to international law,” Burt stated.
“This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace.”
He reiterated the country’s call to reverse recent decisions to approve the construction of new housing units beyond the Green Line along with the latest move in Ariel.
Speaking at a political event in Ness Ziona on Saturday, Sa’ar said Burt’s criticism was “unfounded” and that he did not accept it.
The education minister said the obstacle to peace was not a university in Ariel, but rather the incitement in the Palestinian education system, Palestinian terrorism and the failure of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and end the conflict.
Sa’ar said Ariel was an integral part of Israel even in diplomatic plans presented to the Palestinians by former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.
He described Ariel University as a fine research institution where hundreds of Arab students study, and with which English academic institutions cooperate on “important research.”
On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – following the recommendation of Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein earlier that day – ordered Ariel University Center to be upgraded to full university status, the country’s first new university in decades. On Tuesday, the final step in the process was made by the head of the IDF in Judea and Samaria, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who signed the official document.
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday denied a request by the Council of Presidents of Israel Universities for an injunction to stop the upgrade.
Though it struck down the request, the court did leave the council a legal outlet. It explained that its petition was invalid because it sought to prevent Ariel University Center from being declared a university, something that had already transpired, saying that if the university presidents amend their petition by the end of January, they could still be heard.The Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.