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October 28, 2020 10:24 am

US Ends Restrictions on Funds for Science Research in West Bank

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) sits next to the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, during a ceremony at Ariel University, Oct. 28, 2020. Photo: Emil Salman / Pool via Reuters.

The Trump administration lifted a decades-old ban on Wednesday that had prohibited US taxpayer funding for Israeli scientific research conducted in settlements in the West Bank.

With Tuesday’s US election approaching, President Donald Trump’s move was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and could resonate with evangelical Christian voters who support Israeli settlement activities.

The city of Ariel, the site of an Israeli university, was chosen as the venue for a ceremony opening a new avenue of US scientific cooperation with Israeli researchers.

Netanyahu and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, revised three agreements reached between 1972 and 1977, enabling researchers in settlements to apply for American government funds. They also signed a new scientific and technology cooperation accord.

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Under the now-lifted prohibition, research money for Israelis could not be distributed in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“The Trump vision … opens Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States,” Netanyahu said at Wednesday’s ceremony.

“This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimize everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines.”

Friedman said $1.4 billion had been invested by three US-Israeli research cooperation funds since 1972.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said lifting of the funding ban represented “American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands.”

The Trump administration last year effectively backed Israel‘s right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held US position that they were “inconsistent with international law.”

At the ceremony, Netanyahu again praised Trump for his “successful approach to bringing peace to our region,” citing US-brokered deals for diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab states.

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