Britain's Foreign Secretary has condemned the Israeli cabinet's decision to upgrade a college in the illegal Ariel settlement in the occupied West Bank to university status, Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday. William Hague said that he was "very disappointed" by the unanimous decision to upgrade the status of the college which is built on occupied Palestinian land. "Such a move will further entrench the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and create an additional barrier to peace with the Palestinians," he said in a statement.
The Foreign Secretary argued that this decision may have negative repercussions on academic ties between Israeli and UK universities, and called for Israel to reconsider it "as a matter of urgency".
Hague pointed out that this "regrettable" decision comes "at a time of rapidly expanding co-operation 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."
The decision to upgrade Ariel College into a university was described by an Israeli university official, according to Haaretz, as "absurd", noting that it was a purely political move.
Similarly, the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities described the decision as serving coalition purposes because there is no need for more universities in Israel. "There is no need for another university in Israel," a Council spokesman said. "This is a step that serves coalition and political interests and is bound to spell disaster for higher education in Israel."
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