U.S. to stop funding Jewish academic institutions in the occupied West Bank

Amir Tibon & Ben Samuels

Haaretz  /  June 25, 2023

Embracing traditional U.S. policy, the move reverses the new policy implemented by the Trump administration in its final days.

The Biden administration has informed Israel on Sunday that the United States will not transfer any funds to Jewish research institutes or scientific and technological projects taking place in the occupied West Bank.

The U.S. announcement, first reported by Kan public radio, reverses the policy which former President Donald Trump had implemented in the final weeks of his administration and augurs a return to traditional U.S. policy on the issue.

The Biden administration is embracing traditional American policy that views the West Bank as occupied territory, which the U.S. does not recognize as legally part of Israel. The decision is expected to draw criticism from the current Israeli government.

An official from the Biden administration told Haaretz that the directive only affects institutions located over the Green Line — which was set following a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Jordan and subsequently became the invisible boundary between Israel and the territories that Israel conquered in the June 1967 War.

The U.S. official added that the administration is interested in continuing to expand scientific technological cooperation with Israel.

The directive is expected to influence first and foremost Ariel University, which is the largest academic institution operating in the Jewish settlements.

The move is the most notable reversal of a Trump-era doctrine concerning West Bank settlements, many of which were pushed through by former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“We are righting an old wrong. And strengthening yet again the unbreakable bond between our two countries,” Friedman said in October 2020 after the Trump administration eliminated geographic restrictions on joint development projects, adding “we are depoliticizing a process that should never have been political in the first place.”

Following the ruling, Friedman accused the Biden administration of embracing the BDS movement and violating a binding bilateral agreement.

It remains to be seen whether Biden will overturn the rest of the so-called “Pompeo Doctrine,” in which he declared that settlements were “not per se inconsistent with international law” in 2019.

This policy, it bears noting, was formulated by the Kohelet Policy Forum – the right-wing Israeli think tank behind Netanyahu’s attempts to gut Israel’s judiciary.

Pompeo later spearheaded the change in policy over being able to label settlement products as “Made in Israel,” effectively erasing the distinction between goods produced in Israel itself and the occupied territories.

The European Union has also demanded over the years to exclude Ariel University and other institutions operating in the West Bank from agreements it has signed with Israel in the fields of research, technology and culture.

The most prolific one was Horizon 2020, which the EU signed with the Netanyahu-led government in 2013. That deal included a clause by which investments to Israel as part of the agreement would not be passed on to the settlements.

The U.S. has conveyed their concern regarding the recent attacks by settlers against Palestinians. On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides condemned the latest riots by settlers in the West Bank saying that Washington will not abide such actions.


US to halt funding for Israel projects in occupied Palestinian, Syria territories

Middle East Monitor  /   June 26, 2023

The United States informed Israel yesterday it will halt all funding towards scientific and technological research cooperation projects taking place in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Syrian Golan Heights.

The decision reverses a policy imposed by the Trump administration in 2020 that enabled US taxpayer funding to be used for science and technology projects in the settlements for the first time since 1967.

The White House indicated that such cooperation was “incompatible with the foreign policy of the United States.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, an unnamed US State Department spokesperson said: “This guidance is simply reflective of the longstanding US position, reaffirmed by this Administration, that the ultimate disposition of the geographic areas which came under the administration of Israel after June 5, 1967 is a final status matter and that we are working towards a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state.”

He added, “This is essentially reverting through US policy to longstanding pre-2020 geographic limitations on US support for the activities of the binational foundations.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen slammed the move as “wrong”. He said: “I object to the decision and think it is wrong. In similar cases in the past, the Israeli government fully reimbursed parties damaged by such decisions.”

While US Senator Ted Cruz accused the Biden administration of “undermining and discrimination against Israel.”

Under the administration of former US President Donald Trump, Washington moved away from the two-state solution and sided with Israel in a more obvious manner. It also recognized Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city. It also recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and softened its stance on illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, abandoning its four-decade long position that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law.”