Biden Administration Defends Controversial Move to Slash Israeli Research Funding

'Biden boycotting Israeli scientific projects does nothing to promote peace and is no way to treat an ally'

June 26, 2023

The Biden administration is defending its decision to end taxpayer funding for Israeli research projects, a move critics say alienates one of the United States' strongest allies.

The White House earlier this month moved to formally boycott all scientific cooperation with Jewish Israelis living in so-called Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Golan Heights. A State Department spokesman confirmed the policy shift in comments to the Free Beacon, saying it is "simply reflective of the longstanding U.S. position" on disputed areas of Israel.

"The Department of State recently circulated foreign policy guidance to relevant agencies advising that engaging in bilateral scientific and technological cooperation with Israel in geographic areas which came under the administration of Israel after June 5, 1967, and which remain subject to final status negotiations, is inconsistent with U.S. foreign policy," the spokesman said.

Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen said on Sunday, "I object to the decision and think it is wrong," according to the Times of Israel.

When grilled about the move during a press briefing on Monday, the State Department would not rule out declaring all so-called Israeli settlements as illegal. The United States, the State Department maintains, cannot fund programs that are being carried out in areas the administration considers to be part of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Republicans disagree.

"Biden boycotting Israeli scientific projects does nothing to promote peace and is no way to treat an ally," said former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. Haley, a Republican presidential candidate and vocal opponent of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, slammed the Biden administration for what she sees as foreign policy hypocrisy.

"If this was scientific projects in China, Biden would be for it," Haley told the Washington Free Beacon Monday, calling the plan "Ridiculous."

"This is just another example from President Biden where he has abandoned unambiguous support for our ally Israel, emboldened our enemies, and turned their back on the policy that yielded historic peace deals in the Middle East," former vice president Mike Pence told the Free Beacon. Pence, who is also seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, slammed Biden for replacing "strength with weakness, moral clarity with confusion, and loyalty with betrayal."

The White House’s move reverses a Trump-era policy that allowed collaborative projects with Jews living in disputed territories.  A spokesman for Trump's presidential campaign slammed the reversal Monday, telling the Free Beacon that "President Trump followed through on his promises" and that "Israel had no greater friend than President Trump."

The ban will impact at least three U.S.-Israeli scientific collaborations, according to Axios, which said the State Department moved to crackdown on this funding after one of the Israeli groups approached them for new funding opportunities. The ban quickly drew pushback from Republicans in Congress, who accused the Biden administration of outwardly supporting the BDS movement, which wages economic warfare on Israel.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) lashed out at the Biden administration over the weekend, saying the policy shift was kept hidden from public view.

"The State Department is telling the entire U.S. government not to cooperate with Jews in Judea and Samaria," Cruz said, referring to portions of Jerusalem and the West Bank that Israel controls. "And of course, it was sent to Congress in secret, and only revealed because reporters found out."

"Joe Biden and Biden administration officials are pathologically obsessed with undermining Israel," Cruz said, adding that he will do "everything possible to reverse this decision and prohibit such antisemitic discrimination by the U.S. government in the future."

The Biden administration has repeatedly come under fire for trying to undermine the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. In addition to hiring several officials who have promoted the BDS movement, the administration was recently caught funding left-wing Israeli advocacy groups seeking to unseat Netanyahu, as the Free Beacon first reported in March.

Grants to these anti-Netanyahu groups were personally approved by outgoing U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, according to internal State Department emails first disclosed by the Free Beacon earlier this month.