President Trump has lifted a ban on the funding of research in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, prompting an immediate reaction from the Palestinian side which slammed the US for backing the “occupation” of their land.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman have on Wednesday signed an agreement enabling US government funding of research conducted in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Netanyahu called the agreement “an important victory against all those who seek to delegitimize everything Israeli beyond 1967 lines”,referring to the lands the country claims to have won during a 6-day offensive against Egypt and Jordan that year.

Palestine, which claims the West Bank as its own, predictably, wasn’t pleased with this development. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas claimed lifting of the funding ban furthers “American participation in the occupation of Palestinian lands”. 

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The move continues Trump’s foreign policy trend of legitimizing Israel’s expansion of the settlements – something previous administrations described as not “appropriate”.

This is not the first time he’s broken long-time US precedents on the issue of Israel. In 2017 he officially recognized Jerusalem as the state’s capital (multiple previous Presidents promised to do so when campaigning, but none came through once in office). 

With just days to go until the election and Trump significantly down in the polls, his administrations move is seen by some as aimed towards winning the votes of numerous evangelical Christians who support Israel’s efforts in the West Bank. His opponent Joe Biden, meanwhile, strongly opposes such an approach towards the issue, claiming that Jewish settlements in the area are illegal. 

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The West Bank – a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast – has been considered occupied by Israel since 1967, though Israel denies the allegations and claims the lands are simply “disputed”. Both Israelis and Palestinians assert rights over the area, however, decades of on-again, off-again talks have not yet yielded any resolution.

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