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US, Israel Extend Scientific Research Collaboration into the Biblical Heartland

Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)
Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

JERUSALEM, Israel – The United States on Wednesday officially lifted restrictions on research funding for Israeli institutions in the Golan Heights and the West Bank – the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday for a ceremony at Ariel University in the West Bank settlement community of Ariel. The pair signed amendments to three scientific cooperation agreements initially forged between their two countries in the 1970s to help fund Israeli scientific institutions. However, the US made funding of these Israeli institutions conditional on where they were located. Projects in the West Bank and Golan Heights were excluded.

“These geographic restrictions are no longer consistent with US policy,” the US embassy in Israel said in a statement.

“This geographic restriction within the three agreements was an anachronism, it had no place within our evolving region,” said Friedman.

Israel captured the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War. Since then, Israel has built dozens of settlement communities home to 500,000 Israelis. Most of the international community considers the Israeli settlements in these disputed territories illegal under international law. The Palestinians seek the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

"Today, we are applying the Israel-US science agreement to Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights. This is a great change,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is a victory against all of the organizations and countries that boycott Judea and Samaria. We will not stop taking action so that the entire area will prosper and flourish. The scientific cooperation agreement is especially important at this time, when we are dealing with the coronavirus.”

Netanyahu has described Trump as “the greatest friend Israel ever had.”

The Trump administration reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights and declaring that the US does no longer considers settlement communities illegal. He also moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

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