Israel's West Bank university upgrade escalates row
The cabinet agreed that the conversion of Ariel University Centre to a fully-accredited university was a matter of "national importance".
Ariel is one of three big settlement blocs across the pre-1967 line in the West Bank. The other two, Ma'ale Adumim and Gush Etzion, are likely to be on the Israeli side of a future border, but the fate of Ariel is uncertain as it juts deep inside the Palestinian territory, almost bisecting the West Bank.
Ariel College, founded in 1982, was upgraded to a "university centre" five years ago, and now has around 12,000 students enrolled. Anti-settlement organisations and activists have campaigned against it being formally granted university status.
Last year, around 145 Israeli academics announced a boycott of the establishment, saying "Ariel is not part of the sovereign territory of Israel".
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said: "By awarding the college full university status, Israel is attempting to normalise its military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land. Universities and academics that consistently uphold human rights will refuse to enter into partnership with this new university."
A state-funded arts centre which opened in Ariel almost two years ago has been the subject of a cultural boycott. Around 60 Israeli actors refused to appear at the Ariel Centre for Performing Arts, saying they did not wish to "strengthen the settlement enterprise".
By Harriet Sherwood