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Ahead of U.S. election, Trump ends a U.S. restriction applying to Israeli settlements

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Ahead of U.S. election, Trump ends a U.S. restriction applying to Israeli settlements



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a special ceremony to sign an extension of the Israel-U.S. scientific cooperation agreement in “Judea, Samaria” (the biblical names for the West Bank) and the Golan Heights, at Ariel University in the Jewish settlement of Ariel, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank October 28, 2020. Emil Salman/Pool via REUTERS


ARIEL, West Bank (Reuters) - The Trump administration lifted a decades-old ban on Wednesday that had prohibited U.S. taxpayer funding for Israeli scientific research conducted in Jewish settlements in occupied territory, drawing Palestinian condemnation.


With Tuesday's U.S. election approaching, President Donald Trump's move was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and could resonate with evangelical Christian voters who support Israeli settlement in the West Bank.


The West Bank settlement of Ariel, the site of an Israeli university, was chosen as the venue for a ceremony opening a new avenue of U.S. scientific cooperation with Israeli researchers.


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.


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. They also signed a new scientific and technology cooperation accord.


Under the now-lifted prohibition, research money for Israelis could not be distributed in areas such as the West Bank that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Most countries view permanent settlements on such land as a violation of the Geneva Conventions, though Israel disputes this.


"The Trump vision ... opens Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States," Netanyahu said at the ceremony in Ariel, using biblical names for West Bank territory.


"This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimise everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines."


Friedman said $1.4 billion had been invested by three U.S.-Israeli research cooperation funds since 1972.


A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said lifting of the funding ban represented "American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands".


The Trump administration last year effectively backed Israel's right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held U.S. position that they were "inconsistent with international law".


At the ceremony, Netanyahu again praised Trump for his "successful approach to bringing peace to our region", citing U.S.-brokered deals for diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab states.


(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Graff)



-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-10-29
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9 minutes ago, Jingthing said:

American Jews are one of the demographics most passionately opposed to the white nationalist movement of 45

Ariel Uni "has the largest number of Ethiopian-born students in any Israeli university" and significant minority of Arab-Israelis. The original policy could also be interpreted as racist against two groups who I think are already somewhat marginalized in Israeli society.


Given that several Arab states have agreed to normalize their relations with Israel, I wouldn't have thought the US normalizing this rather minor aspect of its relations was a big deal (especially for uni that's been involved in holding mixed Israeli/Arab peace conferences too.)

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Reports on Israeli media suggest that there was pressure by Sheldon Adelson on Trump to finalize the move before the US elections.


As far as the move representing an attempt to secure more votes, it may plays on three fronts - US evangelicals, US Jews (that is the right-wing/religious element), and US citizens in Israel.  I don't know that it's a very effective move as such - so I'm inclined to suspect Adelson (or other parties involve) could be doubtful regarding Trump's re-election prospects, and trying to push his agenda while he can.


For Netanyahu, this comes at the right time - his support among right-wing and illegal settlers dropped during the last few months, the move represents a good opportunity toward correcting the situation.


This is obviously against the spirit of the recently signed normalization agreements, never mind going against international positions and views on the conflict. My guess is that, as usual, Netanyahu plays short term - score what you can now, deal with the issue right  in-front of you, and deal with the consequences later. More often than not, this actually works for him. How it effects Israel is another matter.


The change will mainly benefit the relatively newly declared university at Ariel (in the West Bank). It's not so much about the money but about legitimizing and normalizing the institute, and thereby, Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank.


Said university was (and is) a controversial affair in Israel. Other academic institutions were against it, and for sure, will not be in favor of the new changes. This is mainly because it makes the risk of other research grants, academic cooperation and ties to be divested or sanctioned. For Netanyahu, by the way, that's a double boon - generally speaking, the academic community is not his home crowd so them getting hit isn't too bad, plus at the same time such hypothetical sanctions would work great with his voters - the world is against us, they are antisemitic and the rest of the nonsense.

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8 hours ago, Jingthing said:

For those that don't realize it, this is not something that most American Jews want. American Jews are one of the demographics most passionately opposed to the white nationalist movement of 45 (which also includes blacks and LGBT people). This purely political pandering move by 45 is for his hard core right wing extremist Christian evangelical base. They are not really friends of Jews. Their apocalyptic vision for Israel includes Jews being forced to convert in the "end times" or if not, damned. With friends like that who needs enemies? 


There's that. And then there's this...


Netanyahu, Ambassador Friedman Ink Deal Expanding Scientific Cooperation to Settlements


Sources involved in the agreement said, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to Ariel University and President Donald Trump, pressured the American administration to hold the ceremony ahead of the U.S. election on Tuesday.


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6 hours ago, onebir said:

1> Really?

2> I think "settlements on disputed territory" is more accurate. (As far as I can see, the situation in the West Bank is a corner case that isn't covered properly by international law. There's legal opinion, but as far as I can see that's just opinion.)

3> With a very weak bargaining position; I suspect part of the point of those treaties was to make that very clear to them. (Covert normalisation had already been occurring, apparently.)


Yes, really. It's not a biggy by itself, but it represents another step in accepting Israel's occupation in the West Bank.


The legal views that you present as 'more accurate' is not, generally speaking, in tune with how most of the international community sees things. Even said legal definitions would have to be widely stretched in order to accommodate the scope of Israel's activities in the West Bank.


The Palestinian may have a weaker bargaining point as a result of the recent normalization efforts and moves such as detailed in the OP. However, this argument is only relevant if there's an actual intention of carrying out negotiations. So far, there are little signs to indicate that Israel, under Netanyahu, is ready and willing to do so, or that it got something reasonable to offer. Before expected comments and objections - this is not to say that the Palestinian side(s) is ready and willing, far from it.

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5 hours ago, stevenl said:

So what is the point of a forum in the first place. You're always defending israeli policies, if this is the best you can come up with, it seems any reasonable defense is not there.


You've been a member long enough to realize that most politically contested topics are not so much about 'discussion', but rather serve as a platform for posters to repeat their views in a loop, and clash with those holding opposite positions.


If you want to express faux outrage about a comment regarding the futility of these 'discussion', that's up to you - I think it's a legit point of view, even if I do not follow what's preached. As for the partisanship comment - that's something you post (one way or another), in a partisan manner - meaning, you do not usually apply criticism such as this to posters holding opposing views.

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