newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Friedman: Biden administration ‘embracing BDS movement’

Washington's decision to freeze scientific cooperation with organizations over the Green Line creates a "lose-lose dynamic," says former U.S. envoy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (center) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in April 2018. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (center) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in April 2018. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Israel.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller confirmed on Monday that the United States would be freezing scientific and technological cooperation with Israeli entities in areas over the 1949 armistice line, i.e., in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and parts of Jerusalem.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took to Twitter following the news of the freeze, saying: “Make no mistake. The United States, by this action, is embracing the BDS movement, violating a binding bilateral agreement with Israel, and creating a lose/lose dynamic whereby the people of the region—Israelis and Palestinians—will lose the most.”

In October 2020, Friedman, under the direction of former President Donald Trump, participated in a signing ceremony at Ariel University in Samaria with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, extending bilateral agreements between Israel and the United States to include Israeli institutions over the so-called Green Line, immediately expanding scientific and academic cooperation.

When asked by a reporter at Monday’s press briefing in Washington about the decision to reverse the Trump administration directive that had permitted such cooperation in all parts of the country, Miller stated:

“The United States strongly values scientific and technological cooperation with Israel, and robust scientific and technological cooperation with Israel continues. The State Department recently circulated foreign policy guidance to relevant agencies in the United States government, advising that engaging in bilateral scientific and technological cooperation with Israel in geographic areas which came under the administration of Israel after 1967 and which remain subject to final-status negotiations is inconsistent with U.S. foreign policy.”

Miller clarified that the policy guidance “is reflective of the longstanding U.S. position, going back decades—reaffirmed by this administration—that the ultimate disposition of the geographic areas which came under the administration of Israel after 1967 is a final-status matter. Essentially, we are reverting to U.S. policy, to longstanding pre-2020 geographic limitations on U.S. support for activities in those areas, a policy that goes back decades, as I stated.”

The Trump administration decision specifically allowed for joint development projects to be pursued in all of Israel, including those of the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD), which until then couldn’t be conducted in areas that “came under the administration of the government of the State of Israel after June 5, 1967, and may not relate to subjects pertinent to such areas.”

The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem told JNS that it would defer to its colleagues in Washington regarding this issue.

Ariel University in Samaria. Source: LinkedIn.

Ariel University

A spokesman for Ariel University, an institution that will be directly affected by the U.S. administration’s reversal in policy, told JNS that the school had not yet received any official notification on the subject and therefore has not released an official statement.

However, Bobby Brown, the university’s senior vice president for resource development and external affairs, took to Facebook with a lengthy post addressing the matter:

“Under the last administration the U.S. government removed all geographical limitations as criteria for applying for U.S. government funding for breakthrough research,” Brown wrote.

“This allowed Ariel University the right to compete against every other university and research center in the world, putting A.U.’s scientists and researchers in difficult but fair standing competing against the best and the brightest,” he continued.

“Ariel University, with its top-level medical school, its top-level engineering school and so many others, entered this competition gladly, and what were the results? Three major research grants were awarded to A.U. projects that would benefit mankind,” said Brown. “There should be no political limitations on research that benefits society or the health, safety and well-being of the world’s population,” he added.

“Two generations ago, it was the hated Nazis who limited Jewish scientists from making breakthroughs only because of where they lived and the fact that they were Jewish,” he continued. “It seems like the State Department has revived this disgusting and anti-Jewish practice to again exclude scientists who are working on new vaccines and engineering researchers who are trying to solve the world’s problems of fresh clean water.”

He concluded: “It is time to rid the world of the racist and BDS mentality in the State Department and in the administration and allow cooperation, good health, joint projects and peace to reign. The alternatives are truly horrific.”

Benjamin Regional Council Governor Israel Ganz called the U.S. move as “both morally and academically warped.”

“The choice to punish the State of Israel, specifically the same week four Jews were murdered by bloodthirsty anti-Semitic Arab terrorists. is a huge stain [on the administration],” he said.

“The move serves to greatly strengthen the terrorist organizations and rewards murder. This decision is an affront to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Those who made this decision stand on the opposite sides of morality and peace,” he added. 

Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, March 19, 2018. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Violating treaties

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, commented on the announced change in policy, telling JNS:

“The U.S. has signed international agreements with Israel providing that joint scientific grant institutions can issue grants even to research institutions across the Green Line.”

According to Kontorovich, “[President Joe] Biden is unilaterally violating those treaties, while also politicizing scientific research and seeking to have independent grant-making bodies impermissibly adhere to his ‘foreign policy’ considerations.

“By seeking to block science funding in places like Jerusalem and the Golan Heights which were recognized as Israeli by President Trump, the Biden administration is attempting to subtly undo American recognition without taking any significant political backlash,” Kontorovich said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) issued what may have been the harshest response to the suspension of joint scientific research, saying he will do all that he can to reverse this decision and “such antisemitic discrimination by the U.S. government in the future.”

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