British Foreign Secretary William Hague
British Foreign Secretary William Hague Reuters

British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed “disappointment” on Monday over the Israeli government’s decision to approve the recognition of the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university.

“I am very disappointed by last night’s decision by the Israeli Cabinet to approve the potential upgrading of Ariel College,” said a statement issued by Hague’s office.

“This would lead to the creation of Israel’s first university beyond the Green Line, in a settlement illegal under international law. It would further entrench the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and create an additional barrier to peace with the Palestinians,” he added.

“This move is particularly regrettable because it 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,” said Hague.

“I call on the Government of Israel to reconsider its approach as a matter of urgency.”

Sunday’s decision won a majority in the government, despite the opposition of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The approval was supported by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had promised coalition trouble if university status is not approved.

The approved proposal calls on the Israeli government to take the necessary actions to fulfill a recent decision on the issue by the Council of Higher Education for Judea and Samaria (CHE-JS).

The heads of other universities recently filed a motion to the Supreme Court against the CHE-JS’ decision to recognize Ariel. The universities have said that they are afraid that the decision will reduce their funding.

Bar Ilan University has retracted its signature on the motion, in which the heads of the universities claim that that the CHE-JS exceeded the bounds of its authority when it decided, against the opinion of the Council of Higher Education's Planning and Finance Committee, to recognize Ariel as a university, and that its decision is riddled with legal faults. These are not academic in nature. 

Barak, who has to sign the decision to make it official since the IDF is the body which has legal authority over Judea and Samaria, took advantage of the motion to advise Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to wait with recognizing Ariel until the court discusses the motion.