President Trump – fighting for re-election in America – has now lifted restrictions on American federal investment in science, research and agriculture projects undertaken in Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
Trump’s peace plan, it should be recalled, provides for Israel to ultimately extend its sovereignty into about 30% of Judea and Samaria where some 460000 Israelis presently live.
Signing the agreement lifting the investment restrictions on 28 October – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – said:
“Just as we have seen tremendous regional progress on the Abraham Accords, we are also seeing the tangible benefits of President Trump’s policies for bilateral cooperation with Israel”
The Abraham Accords – brokered by President Trump – signed on 15 September by Israel, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and expanded on 23 October to include Sudan after Sudan and Israel agreed to normalize relations – states:
“We support science, art, medicine, and commerce to inspire humankind, maximize human potential and bring nations closer together.”
Trump’s initiative is consistent with this noble principle and has not met with any opposition from its Arab signatories.
However a spokesman for PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said lifting of the funding ban represented:
“American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands”.
The PLO continues to bury its head in the sand as the Arab world’s burgeoning relations with Israel expand. Abbas also runs the risk of missing out on the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian Arab State in Gaza and 70% of Judea and Samaria – as envisioned in Trump’s plan.
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 – the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD).
The announcement stated:
“The three Foundations are mechanisms for bilateral science, agriculture, and technology cooperation and have provided over $1.4 billion since their inception to support more than 7,300 joint research and commercial projects that have scientifically and economically benefited both countries. Each dollar invested through the BARD Foundation has returned an estimated $12 in value to the U.S. and Israeli economies.
Each dollar invested through the BIRD Foundation produces an estimated $5 in revenue from commercially successful projects and an estimated $6 in follow-on investments in startups. BSF has supported 47 Nobel Laureates and has kept scientists in both countries in the lead in innovation in medicine, cybersecurity, high technology, other critical areas of science with both civilian and military applications.”
BIRD, BSF and BARD represent the last remaining agreements between Israel and the US that included geographic restrictions barring them from working with Israelis in “settlements” established in Judea and Samaria after the 1967 Six Day War.
The statement affirmed:
“These geographic restrictions are no longer consistent with U.S. policy following (i) the Administration’s opposition to the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, (ii) the Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, (iii) the Administration’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and (iv) the Administration’s announcement that the U.S. will no longer consider that the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank is per se inconsistent with international law.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared:
“The Trump vision … opens Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States. This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimise everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines.”
Trump has at least another ten weeks in the White House to weave some more magic.
David Singer is an Australian lawyer who is active in Zionist community organizations in that country. He founded the “Jordan is Palestine” Committee in 1979.
This Op-Ed was originally published in Artuz Sheva.