Know More About Palestine

Thursday Jan. 21, 2010 8:32 PM (EST+7)
Israel moves to launch university in West Bank settlement

Read more: settlements, Israel, occupation, West Bank, Ariel, peace process, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Zionism, university

JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Israel has agreed to upgrade to university status a college built in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, a move critics see as placing another obstacle in the path of US-backed efforts to resume stalled peace talks.

The decision by Defence Minister Ehud Barak formalised a 2005 cabinet ruling to that effect but also coincided with the latest visit to the region by US peace envoy George Mitchell for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters that establishing a full Israeli university in land near Nablus that Palestinians want for their state was part of the same policy of dictation rather than negotiation.

Every time Senator Mitchell comes to the region, they greet him with such policies, Erekat added.

A statement from Barak's office confirmed that on Wednesday he had given his authorisation for the Ariel College to become a university centre, a process that would be completed only once a separate academic panel gave its authorisation.

The college of more than 8,000 students was built in the 1980s in one of the biggest Jewish settlements on land occupied since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.

Barak's decision would help the college obtain academic credentials that would enable it to expand research and increase its student body to some 20,000 in the next decade, said Rinat Saguy, a spokeswoman for Ariel College.

We are glad he has granted the permission, she added.


Israel says it plans to keep the Ariel settlement under any peace deal that creates a Palestinians state. Even Palestinian leaders acknowledge such settlements could be annexed by Israel in return for a Palestinian state getting more land elsewhere.

But critics of the college upgrade said the move created facts on the ground that may further complicate already delayed negotiations that have yet to produce any deal that would give Palestinians sovereignty in the West Bank.

Left-wing Israeli academics protested that a new university would siphon away funds earmarked for other educational institutions and possibly hurt their relations with foreign academics, especially in Europe, where university groups have threatened to boycott Israel in the past over settlement policy.

Uri Avnery, a former Israeli lawmaker and veteran left-wing critic of settlements, said Barak had granted legitimacy to all those in the world who call to boycott Israeli universities.

Neve Gordon, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University and member of a group that sought a court order to cancel the Ariel College decision, called it another instance of Israel deepening its roots in the West Bank.

You create facts on the ground, then say we can't return these areas. It's a part of the old wall-and-tower approach to building settlements, Gordon told Reuters in a reference to the Zionist strategy of building outposts to claim territory.

He also criticised Barak personally, saying he was ignoring his own left-wing Labour party's past commitments to a deal on Palestinian statehood: I thought Barak was for a two-state solution, Gordon said. But apparently he is not. (Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Ramallah; editing by Alastair Macdonald and Paul Taylor) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to







Al-Madaris St. (same building as
MBC and al-Arabiya studios)
First Floor, Al-Bireh
PO Box 4045, Ramallah
PO Box 25047, Jerusalem 97300
Phone: ++972-2-297-6555
Fax: ++972-2-297-6555
Log in to My JMCC
 or Sign Up
Forgot your password?Close
Front Page
My Comments Photo of the Day
Calendar Hot Spot(for journalists)
Audio of the Day Video of the Day
Most Popular Historical Timeline
Noticeboard Blogs
My Tags Help Desk
User Info
First Name
Last Name
My Tags 
I am a
After signing up,you will receive
an automatically
generated password in your
Recover Password
Submit Your Email
 or Sign Up