Israeli government minister fires back at British criticism

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The education minister of Israel responded to British condemnation of planned construction in eastern Jerusalem and accreditation of Ariel University Center.

"Our connection to Ariel is at least as strong as the UK’s connection to the Falkland Islands," Gideon Saar said late Saturday.

"A university is an obstacle to peace? And as long as it was not a university there was a chance for peace? The incitement in the Palestinian educational system is the true obstacle to peace," he said during a cultural event in Ness Ziona. "It is the unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and end their conflict with us that constitutes an obstacle to peace."

Saar noted that hundreds of Arab students study at Ariel and that the center has cooperated with academic institutions in England on important research projects."

British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement released on Dec. 27 that  Israel’s upgrading of the Ariel center "will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace." He also said that Israel’s decision to build 1,200 homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo “is damaging Israel’s international reputation.”

Burt also invoked the Geneva Conventions in his criticism, and by  juxtapositioning them implying that settlement expansion is considered a war crime under international law.
 

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