by: Kate Norman
Thursday, 29 October 2020 | Israel and the US on Wednesday signed an agreement to remove geographical restrictions for US funding of scientific research in development in Israel, effectively opening the door for US money to pour into Israeli scientific projects in Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem.
“Today, we are applying the Israel–US science agreement to Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “This is a great change. This is a victory against all of the organizations and countries that boycott Judea and Samaria.”
The three US–Israeli foundations centered in the agreement—the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD—were established in the 1970s.
They were established on the agreement to exclude funding for such projects in areas Israel gained control of during the defensive Six Day War of 1967: Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank) and east Jerusalem. The Golan Heights, which came under Israeli control in 1981, was also barred from receiving funding.
At a ceremony at Ariel University in Samaria, Prime Minister Netanyahu joined US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to sign amendments lifting the geographical restrictions as well as an agreement to advance government-to-government cooperation in science and technology.
“This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimize everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines,” Netanyahu said.
“And to those malevolent boycotters, I have a simple message today: You are wrong and you will fail. You are wrong because you deny what cannot be denied, the millennial connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel—it’s over 3,000 years old.
“And you will fail because we are resolved to continue to build our life in our ancestral homeland and to never be uprooted from here again,” the prime minister concluded.
BIRD, BARD and BSF combined have contributed over US $1.4 billion in funding for over 7,300 research projects, the US Embassy in Israel noted in a statement. Before this agreement, that funding was limited geographically from the post-1967 areas.
The new agreement “[depoliticizes] a process that should never have been politicized in the first place,” Ambassador Friedman said in his speech.
“Plainly, this geographic restriction within these agreements was an anachronism. We are righting an old wrong, and we are strengthening yet again the unbreakable bond between our two countries.”
Not everyone sees it as righting a wrong, however. The Palestinian Authority rushed to condemn the move, warning that it was another US step toward recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the contested region.
“This is a dangerous and unacceptable precedent,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesperson stated.
“We reject this American policy which attempts to help Israel consolidate its occupation of Palestinian lands,” Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh continued.
President Trump has taken the US policy on Israel long strides in his four years: moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and declaring Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as “not inherently illegal.”
His “Vision for Peace” proposal for solving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict allotted 30% of Judea and Samaria for official Israeli sovereignty while the other 70% would be given for a future Palestinian state—provided the Palestinians meet certain conditions.
However, the Abraham Accords put a halt to Netanyahu pushing forward to apply Israeli sovereignty over the region. The prime minister, however, insisted that the plans were paused, not completely off the table.
Experts across the spectrum are debating whether this newest agreement is the first step toward the US recognizing Israel sovereignty in the contested biblical heartland or whether it is merely a “consolation prize,” as one analyst called it.
Posted on October 29, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 29, 2020)
Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy/flickr.com
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