[Boycott - Academic]
British minister to visit Israel, discuss plan for academic ban
Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
7 June 2007
The British Minister of State for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Bill Rammell, will arrive in Israel on Sunday to discuss the plan by the main British union of university teachers to boycott Israeli institutions.
Rammell, who is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Education Minister Yuli Tamir, will take a stand supportive of Israel and against a boycott.
Last week, the University and College Union announced that its branches throughout the country would debate the possibility of imposing an academic boycott on institutions of higher education in Israel, unless these condemn the occupation of the Palestinian territories. In the wake of that resolution, Livni spoke with her counterpart, Margaret Beckett, and conveyed her protest. After that conversation the British government decided to dispatch to Israel its minister in charge of higher education.
Rammell will officially present the position of the British government, which holds that any kind of boycott will not contribute to the peace process and a two-state solution, and therefore dialogue is preferable.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke Wednesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who condemned calls for an academic boycott of Israel, and said they are not representative of British public opinion nor of British universities.
Livni will meet Thursday at her Tel Aviv chambers with Yuli Tamir, the chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, Ofer Eini, and the heads of universities and colleges to prepare for an information countercampaign against the intended boycott.
Additionally, Livni will hold a meeting with a delegation of leaders from Britain's Jewish community to discuss the boycott issue.
Minister Isaac Herzog, who is responsible for Diaspora affairs and countering anti-Semitism, will raise the academic boycott at a conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, being held this week in Bucharest, Romania.
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