JERUSALEM Israel upgraded a college in a West Bank Jewish settlement to a university on Monday, reflecting a determination to keep control of the enclave in any peace deal with the Palestinians.
The decision gives the Ariel campus, established in 1982 near the city of Nablus, the same status as universities inside Israel. It comes after Israel announced plans to expand other settlements on occupied land, drawing protest from European governments and the United States.
"For the first time in decades, Israel has a new university," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
Final approval came from military chiefs, who formalised a cabinet decision in September. Their decision was delayed while experts examined legal challenges from other universities that opposed the upgrade.
Some Israeli university heads argued that public funding for the new university would come at their expense.
The Palestinian Higher Education Office also condemned the decision and urged universities worldwide to boycott the institution.
Most world powers see Israeli settlements on land that Palestinians seek for a state as illegal and an obstacle to peace.
European nations and Washington have criticised Netanyahu's plans to build as many as 6,000 more settlement homes, announced since a November 29 United Nations vote gave Palestinians effective recognition as a state and angered Israel.
European governments have summoned Israeli ambassadors to protest at the expansion of settlements, particularly those established on captured land that Israel annexed to Jerusalem in a move that was never recognised internationally.
Israel has signalled it intends to retain control of several larger settlement blocs such as Ariel under any future pact, while the fates of other enclaves may be negotiated.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)
Trending On Reuters
Iran and world powers made progress on future sanctions relief for Iran in marathon nuclear talks on Saturday, but remained divided on issues such as lifting United Nations sanctions and the development of advanced centrifuges. Full Article
- At least 25 Syrian al Qaeda members dead in mosque blast in Syria's Idlib - monitor
- Tunisia's president declares state of emergency after hotel attack
- Hot dogs (many), banners and barbecues as America celebrates July 4
- Syrian army and Hezbollah lay siege to rebel-held border city
- Defence minister rejected as Taliban battle near Kabul