The British government is proposing to host a conference of British, Israeli and Palestinian academics in the United Kingdom to signal its opposition to the boycott call of Israeli academia by the British university lecturers' union, the UCU.
Bill Rammel, the British minister for higher education who is currently visiting Israel, told Ynetnews on Sunday that he hoped this conference could be arranged "fairly quickly". The topic of the conference would be the globalization of education.
Rammel was joined on his visit to Israel by Professor James Drummond Bone, the vice chancellor of the University of Liverpool and the president of Universities UK, the representative body of all the heads of British universities.
Rammel, in his meetings with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Knesset education committee chairman Michael Melchior and Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, stressed his, and the British government's opposition to the boycott call.
'Why did it start in United Kingdom?'
He pointed out that a boycott of Israeli academia would harm the progressive voices in Israel calling for reconciliation and bridge-building.
Minister Herzog told Ynetnews that he wanted to see more exchange programs between Israeli academics and their British counterparts so as to expose UK academics "to Israel, its complexities, history and beautiful people. When you ask people (overseas) about Israel, all they think about is conflict."
Herzog called Rammel's visit "very important – it's something that was called for" after the UCU's boycott decision. "Our guests understood and saw at first-hand the complexity of the issue and how Israel looks at this resolution."
Herzog said the boycott call raised a number of questions: "Why, of all places, did it start in the United Kingdom, what brought it about and how can we strike it off?"
Earlier Monday, during a meeting with Minister Tamir at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Rammel said that imposing a boycott was not the right step.
Instead, he said, the two sides should promote dialogue, the necessary element for peace.