Netanyahu Hails ‘Important Victory’ in Deal with U.S. Extending Scientific Cooperation to West Bank

Israel and the U.S. on Wednesday signed an agreement on Wednesday extending scientific cooperation to apply to Israeli institutions in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, in a move that is being seen by some as a precursor to U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.
Courtesy Government Press Office

Israel and the U.S. on Wednesday signed an agreement Wednesday extending scientific cooperation to apply to Israeli institutions in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, in a move seen by some as a precursor to U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem said the deal will “remove geographic restrictions” on scientific cooperation agreements from the 1970s which been restricted to universities in the West Bank.

The agreements contained a clause that said cooperation “may not be conducted in geographical areas which came under the administration of the State of Israel after June 5, 1967, and may not relate to subjects primarily pertinent to such areas.”

“These geographic restrictions are no longer consistent with U.S. policy,” the embassy statement said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman signed the amendment at a ceremony at Ariel University in the eponymous settlement in the northern West Bank.

“It opens Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States,” Netanyahu said, using the West Bank’s biblical names.

“This is an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimize everything Israeli beyond the 1967 lines. And to those malevolent boycotters, I have a simple message for you today: You are wrong, and you will fail. You are wrong because you deny what cannot be denied — the millennial connection between the people of Israel and the land of Israel; it’s over 3,000 years old,” he said.

“And you will fail because we are resolved to continue to build our life in our ancestral homeland and to be never uprooted from here again.”

Friedman said: “We are righting an old wrong and strengthening the bonds between our countries.”

“I was disappointed that three agreements devoted to academic and scientific growth were limited by political restrictions,” he said.

The U.S. envoy went on to say that the Trump administration did not view the Jewish settlement in the West Bank as illegal and therefore the “anachronism” was no longer fitting.

“These geographic restrictions no longer comport with our foreign policy,” he said.

 “We are depoliticizing a process that should never have been politicized in the first place,” he said.

Speaking to Breitbart News, Eugene Kontorovich, an international law professor at George Mason University, said the agreement proved the U.S. “fully recognizes Israeli settlements as not only fully legal, but legitimate.”

“It will also mean the acceleration of science and research that will make America and the world a better place,” Kontorovich, who is also the director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said.

“This is the total repudiation of the anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which the Obama-Biden administration allowed to pass in their last days. As embodied in a diplomatic agreement, it cannot be unilaterally changed by a subsequent American administration,” he added.

Higher Education and Water Resources Minister Ze’ev Elkin praised Netanyahu for a “great achievement in advancing [Israeli] sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

Efrat Mayor Oded Raviv, a senior settlement leader, hailed the agreement as “a huge step for peace and co-existence.”

“Eight years after Obama boycotted students from Ariel, President Trump is righting the injustice,” he said. “By erasing the scientific and academic ‘Green Line,’ the Trump administration is expressing their recognition of the reality on the ground.”

“Peace can only be made when we deal with reality and not fantasy. Today’s agreements are another fulfillment of the doctrine of peace for prosperity — the catalyst for peace will be when Israelis and Palestinians see each other as partners in the future,” he said.

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