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Trump administration lifts ban on funding research in Israeli settlements

Trump administration lifts ban on funding research in Israeli settlements
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The Trump administration on Wednesday lifted restrictions on federal investment in science, research and agriculture projects in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which the international community views as occupied territory.

The agreement lifting the restrictions was signed by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE in a ceremony at Ariel University, located within an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

“Just as we have seen tremendous regional progress on the Abraham Accords, we are also seeing the tangible benefits of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE’s policies for bilateral cooperation with Israel,” Friedman said during the ceremony, referring to the signed agreement last month between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that was brokered by the U.S.

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The UAE deal with Israel was predicated on Netanyahu “suspending” plans to annex territory in the West Bank.

Trump last week also announced normalized relations between Israel and Sudan.

The lifted restrictions apply to three U.S. foundations established in the 1970s for joint research projects with Israel in the fields of science, technology and agriculture but were barred from work in the communities Israelis established in territory captured following the 1967 war — fought between Israel and Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

The foundations, working in Israel proper, have jointly invested $1.4 billion for more than 7,300 joint U.S. and Israeli research projects, according to the State Department, which added that each dollar invested returns about $12 in value to the U.S. and Israeli economies.

In 2019, the State Department certified that it no longer viewed Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 cease-fire line in the West Bank as “inconsistent with international law,” paving the way for increased U.S. engagement in these areas.

The latest development comes less than one week before the presidential election. Trump has touted his record strengthening the U.S. relationship with Israel — recognizing Israeli settlements, certifying Israel’s control over the Golan Heights and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

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Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the “Trump vision” opens “Judea and Samaria” — the biblical reference for the West Bank — “to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States."

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

The majority of the international community calls for the final status of the West Bank to be negotiated in talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the lifting of the funding ban represented “American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands,” Reuters reported.