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US, Israel extends scientific cooperation deals to West Bank, Golan Heights

Israeli troops are pictured in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on the border with Syria on 3 January, 2020 [JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli troops are pictured in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on the border with Syria on 3 January, 2020 [JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel and US today signed an agreement that extended scientific cooperation to the occupied Palestinian West Bank and occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Israeli media and news agencies reported.

The agreement removed all the previous geographic restrictions related to scientific cooperation, the Times of Israel reported, noting that some view the move as the first step toward American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

According to the Israeli daily, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman signed the protocol that amended three 1970s agreements on scientific cooperation.

Before signing this protocol, the agreements stipulated that US cooperation with Israel "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."

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The protocol was signed at Ariel University, which is located in an illegal Israeli Jewish-only settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

"It opens Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United States," Netanyahu said.

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

He addressed "those malevolent boycotters," saying: "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."

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"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."

The agreements were signed with the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD).

Speaking at the event, Friedman said: "Plainly, this geographic restriction within these three agreements was an anachronism. We are righting an old wrong, and we are strengthening yet again the unbreakable bond between our two countries."

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