Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the Jewish settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank will remain under Israeli control forever.
“I want to reassure the world, the danger is not Ariel University; the danger to the world is not that Israel is building neighbourhoods in Jerusalem,” insisted Netanyahu. “The danger is that Iran is building nuclear weapons. The danger is that Syria is storing chemical weapons.” He was speaking during a visit to Ariel on Tuesday, where his government has granted university status to a college in a move rejected even within Israeli academia. The Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities filed a petition at the High Court of Justice against the decision to grant university status to the Ariel study centre.
“History will judge those who compare democratic Israel-constructed universities to tyrannical regimes slaughtering their own people. We remain loyal to our homeland. We will protect our citizens and develop and build our country,” said Netanyahu. He ignored the fact that Ariel is built on Palestinian land and is considered, along with all other Israeli settlements, to be illegal by the international community.
“In short,” said one commentator, “Ariel is not in Israel for Netanyahu to claim that he is developing his country.” Netanyahu’s speech, he added, has to be seen in the context of the Israeli general election campaign, wherein he has to vie with even more extreme right-wing parties for votes.