The Ariel University Center of Samaria is not an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said on Saturday. He was responding to a statement by British Middle East Affairs Minister Alistair Burt on Dec. 27 in which he denounced Israel's decision to grant the institution, situated beyond the Green Line, full university status.
The British minister was quoted on Friday as saying, "This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace."
Speaking at a cultural event in Ness Ziona, Sa'ar said, "That statement is false and I do not accept it. Ariel has always been an integral part of Israel, and was even mentioned in political offers made to the Palestinians by [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert. Our connection with Ariel is no less, to say the least, than England's connection to the Falkland Islands.
"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. 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. Ariel is a commendable research center in which hundreds of Arab students study. It is a center that has cooperated with academic institutions in England on important research projects."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on Burt's remarks and said on Saturday that Ariel University will remain a part of Israel in any future agreement with the Palestinians, despite the positions of the U.S. and European countries on the matter.