Communicated by Deputy Foreign Minister’s Bureau
Against the backdrop of criticism voiced against Israel by academia around the world, a delegation of university presidents arrived in Israel from the United States. They met with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem.
At the meeting, the university presidents told the deputy foreign minister that they mean to work towards promoting projects in academic institutions that will involve increased cooperation between Israel, the US and the Palestinians. “We are here because we care. When we return to the U.S. we intend to encourage our colleagues to promote projects between American, Israeli and Palestinian universities,” the presidents said.
DFM Ayalon referred to the anti-Israel campaign at many universities and said, “The campaign is morally wrong. Freedom of expression must not be used as an instrument to hurt others.” Ayalon stressed the importance of freedom of thought and opinion at universities and added that it is important that students be able to develop their own opinions concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Ayalon gave his guests a review of the situation in the Middle East in general and the negotiations with the Palestinians in particular and told them that, while Israel has done much for the sake of peace, the Palestinians have just become entrenched in their position. “I would like to see the Palestinians say in Arabic what they say in English. In order to advance a solution, one must build a culture of peace. A conflict of 100 years will not be resolved in a matter of weeks; what is needed here is a lot of patience and tolerance.”
The university presidents are in Israel to meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian government officials as part of a program sponsored by Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee. The week-long program was designed by Project Interchange in consultation with the participating university heads.