In a significant departure from the previous administration’s stance, President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Monday that the United States would no longer provide funding for scientific research conducted by Israeli academic institutions in the West Bank. The decision reflects a shift away from validating the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and aligns the US with the international consensus regarding the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Reversing Trump’s Policy
The move marks a reversal of the policy implemented under former President Donald Trump, which rejected the widely accepted international consensus that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal. By discontinuing funding for scientific and technological cooperation in areas of the West Bank under Israeli administration since 1967, the Biden administration seeks to demonstrate its commitment to US foreign policy principles and its support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
US State Department’s Position
The US State Department’s spokesperson, Matthew Miller, emphasized that the United States holds scientific and technological cooperation with Israel in high regard. However, he clarified that providing funding for projects located in the West Bank contradicts US foreign policy, which has been consistent for decades. The guidance issued to US government agencies underscores the importance of upholding international law and supporting negotiations to reach a final-status agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Ariel University and its Implications
One of the most prominent academic institutions affected by this decision is Ariel University, which was founded in 1982 within a settlement in the West Bank. With the funding cut-off, the university’s research activities and collaborations will face significant challenges. Critics argue that this decision could hinder academic freedom and harm scientific progress, while supporters commend the US administration for taking a principled stand against the Israeli occupation.
Reactions and Political Divisions
Unsurprisingly, the decision has prompted a sharp response from members of the Republican Party. Senator Ted Cruz, known for his vocal criticism of President Biden, accused the administration of engaging in “anti-Semitic discrimination” and claimed that it was undermining Israel. David Friedman, the former US ambassador to Israel under the Trump administration, accused Biden of embracing the activist movement to boycott Israel. These criticisms highlight the ongoing political divisions surrounding US policy towards Israel and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Implications for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
The US decision to cease funding for Israeli academic institutions in the West Bank has broader implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It sends a signal that the Biden administration is committed to a more balanced approach and aims to support the resumption of negotiations between the parties. By aligning with the international consensus on the illegality of Israeli settlements, the US is positioning itself as a more impartial mediator in the pursuit of a two-state solution.
The United States’ decision to stop funding scientific research conducted by Israeli academic institutions in the West Bank represents a significant departure from the previous administration’s policy. By aligning with the international consensus on the illegality of Israeli settlements, the Biden administration seeks to reaffirm its commitment to US foreign policy principles and support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. While the move has garnered criticism from some quarters, it underscores the administration’s determination to take a more balanced approach and foster an environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations towards a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.