Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar lashed out on Saturday at Britain's Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, over his criticism of Israel's illegal settlements, the website Times of Israel reported. Burt also criticised the upgrading of a college in the large Ariel settlement to a university. This, according to Sa'ar, is "detached from reality", who added, "I do not accept the British condemnation."
Sa'ar likened the strong relationship between Israelis and their settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories to Britain's connection to the Falkland Islands. He praised the new university in Ariel, calling it a "glorious institution". Mr. Burt had called the upgrade "an impediment to peace".
Speaking at a cultural event in occupied Palestine, Sa'ar asked, "How can it be that a university is an impediment to peace, and when it was only a college peace was attainable?"
In a statement, Burt said that he and Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed "condemnation and deep disappointment" at the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee's approval of 1,500 housing units in Ramat Shlomo settlement. They also denounced recently-announced plans for additional construction in the Givat Hamatos and Gilo settlements, which are located in the occupied West Bank.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention was quoted; it states that an "occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
Burt was clear in his condemnation: "These are further profoundly provocative actions that run contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention. By taking these steps… the Israeli government is damaging Israel's international reputation."