Biden administration to reverse Trump-era Israeli settlement research funding

Biden administration to reverse Trump-era Israeli settlement research funding
3 min read
26 June, 2023
A State Department spokesperson said the funding of such projects in settlements across the occupied Palestinian territories would be 'inconsistent' with US foreign policy.
Biden's administration informed Israeli officials of the ban on funding two weeks ago [Getty]

US President Joe Biden’s administration will halt US taxpayers' money being spent on research and development at illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli officials were reportedly informed of the ban two weeks ago, Axios reported on Sunday, citing US officials.

Washington will halt funding on any research or development projects, as well as scientific cooperation projects carried out in the Israeli settlements.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and has built hundreds of settlements there in violation of international law since then.

"The Department of State recently circulated foreign policy guidance to relevant agencies advising that engaging in bilateral scientific and technological cooperation with Israel in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights is inconsistent with US foreign policy," a State Department spokesperson told the US website.

The policy was first promoted by former President Donald Trump in 2020. It permitted US government investment in Israeli settlements for the first time since 1967. Trump was widely considered the most pro-Israel US president ever.

However, Biden reversed the policy shortly after he became president in January 2021.

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The ban affected three US-Israeli scientific cooperation foundations: the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD).

The US State Department told relevant US and Israeli officials that the Biden administration would be reverting to the pre-Trump era policy of limiting funds for research purposes for these institutions, after researchers reportedly applied for a grant, Axios said.

As a result, the entities were prohibited from carrying out any projects in the settlements that received any US funding.

The decision also impacted on research conducted at Ariel University, which is located in Israeli settlement of the same name in the centre of the occupied West Bank.

Despite the decision, the State Department spokesperson said it still "values scientific and technological cooperation with Israel" and hopes that it "will continue".

The US is Israel's long-standing ally and provides it with vital financial and military support over the years despite Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank, siege of Gaza, and violent attacks on Palestinian civilians.

However, Washington has voiced opposition to Israel's intensified settlement expansion policy, which it says "undermines efforts to achieve a two-state solution with the Palestinians."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to expand the illegal settlements and this has been condemned by rights groups. Israel is expected to green-light the building of 4,560 settlement units in the West Bank soon.

Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a settler himself, has been a huge proponent of Israel's settlement programme and has been handled key powers by Netanyahu over this area.

Palestinians say the settlements stifle any hope for the establishment of an independent state of their own, while settlers have launched a wave of violent attacks on Palestinian towns and villages.