US, Israel extend science accords into West Bank settlements

Palestinians who seek the West Bank for a future state said the move made Washington complicit in what they termed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. — Reuters pic

Past scientific accords with the USA government stipulated that Israeli research projects receiving United States grants could not be carried out in areas that came under Israeli administration in the 1967 conflict.

Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and along with many countries consider the settlements illegal.

During a ceremony at Ariel University in the West Bank attended by US Ambassador David Friedman, Netanyahu praised Trump's administration for "rejecting the failed mantras of the past".

In Ariel, Netanyahu and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, revised three agreements reached between 1972 and 1977, enabling researchers in settlements to apply for U.S. government funds.

The agreement will immediately expand scientific and academic cooperation to include projects within Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights-disputed territories under Israeli control. They also signed a new scientific and technology cooperation accord.

US President Donald Trump Wednesday lifted a ban that forbade US taxpayer money to fund scientific research in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"But with that said, it was important that the (Israeli) defence establishment received this clear American undertaking to preserve our qualitative military edge", added Netanyahu, who earlier on Thursday hosted visiting Pentagon chief Mark Esper.

Israel's settlements are illegal under worldwide law.

Friedman said US$1.4 billion (RM5.8 billion) had been invested by three US-Israeli research cooperation funds since 1972.

The United States and Israel amended a series of scientific cooperation agreements on Wednesday to include Israeli institutions in the West Bank, a step that further blurs the status of settlements widely considered illegal under worldwide law.

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the move as further "American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands".

Trump's administration has also brokered normalisation deals for Israel with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, pacts the president has highlighted during his campaign events.

Trump has given his record on Israel a prominent role in his re-election campaign, wooing Jewish voters and evangelical Christians with strong affinity for the Jewish state.



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