West News Wire: Reversing a US policy put in place in the final weeks of the Donald Trump administration, the Biden administration informed Israel that Washington will no longer transfer cash to research, science, or technology projects taking place in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli radio station Kan was the first to report on the announcement. Later, a Biden representative informed Haaretz that the order only applied to organisations situated above the 1949 armistice line dividing Israel from the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
In the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, “the Department of State recently circulated foreign policy guidance to relevant agencies advising that engaging in bilateral scientific and technological cooperation with Israel” is contradictory with US foreign policy, a State Department spokesperson told Axios.
According to Axios, the notice was delivered to Israel two weeks ago.
The move reverses a Trump-era policy decision in late 2020, which allowed US taxpayer funding to be used for science and technology projects in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank for the first time since 1967.
At the illegal West Bank community of Ariel, which was established in 1978 on land taken from the villages of Salfit, Iskaka, Marada, and Kifl Haris, the agreement to change the policy was signed in October 2020.
The location, which is now home to an Israeli university, was picked as the event’s location because promoters claimed it would pave the way for future US-Israeli scientific collaboration.
One of the actions involving West Bank settlements that former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman pushed through was the Trump administration’s.
Shortly after Biden took office, the State Department opted to reverse the Trump administration’s policy; but, a source told Axios that the prohibition wasn’t put into effect until recently, when researchers from an institute in Israeli settlements sought for a grant.
The 41-year-old legal opinion that had long served as the foundation of US policy towards Israeli settlements was effectively thrown out by Pompeo’s announcement under the Trump administration that the US no longer considered Israel’s settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be “inconsistent with international law.”
Pompeo also was the first US secretary of state to visit an illegal Israeli settlement in the Palestinian West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights, and also implemented a policy stating that all exports from the West Bank’s Area C whether made by Palestinians or Israelis would be branded as “Made in Israel”.
The former secretary of state’s moves angered Palestinian leaders, who have long argued that settlements impede peace efforts and make the creation of a future Palestinian state all but impossible – but the shift delighted Israel.
It remains to be seen whether Biden will overturn the rest of the Pompeo doctrine, which was formulated by the Kohelet Policy Forum, the right-wing Israeli think tank behind Israel’s attempted judicial overhaul.
The Biden administration’s decision also comes as violence has engulfed the West Bank, following Israel’s raids on the Jenin refugee camp last week which left seven Palestinians dead.
The raids were followed by an attack by two Palestinian gunmen that left four Israeli settlers dead.
Israel continued to ratchet up tensions when it carried out its first drone strike in the West Bank in almost 20 years, leaving three Palestinians dead. Since the start of this year, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 171 Palestinians, including 26 children.