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Friedman (L) with Netanyahu. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel will announce tomorrow that they are expanding three agreements on scientific cooperation to include Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is a substantial policy shift for the U.S., which did not previously allow its taxpayers' money to be spent in the Israeli settlements.

The agreements will be signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Ariel University in the West Bank.

  • They concern three joint U.S.-Israeli foundations for scientific cooperation, which invest government money into research and development projects.
  • When the agreements were first signed in the 1970s, they included a territorial clause stating that funding would only go to projects inside Israel's 1967 lines. That clause has been deleted from the amended agreements.

Behind the scenes: This policy shift was driven by Friedman, Israeli officials say. He intended it as a gesture to Netanyahu and to Israeli settlers after Netanyahu's vow to annex parts of the West Bank was taken off the table as part of Israel's normalization deal with the UAE.

What they're saying: An Israeli official told me this move is a signal of U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.

  • I asked Friedman about that claim and he denied it, saying the deal was only meant to enhance scientific cooperation.
  • But Israeli higher education minister Zeev Elkin had a different view. He tweeted that the deal was "a big achievement for Israel’s sovereignty" in the West Bank and "another step towards international recognition of our rights" there.

Go deeper

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Palestinians prepare charm offensive for Biden

Abbas and Biden in Ramallah in 2010. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Palestinian leaders are considering several initiatives that they hope will encourage strong relations with the incoming administration and make it easier for Biden to roll back Trump's policies.

Why it matters: After four years of deep crisis in U.S.-Palestinian relations, President Mahmoud Abbas desperately needs to rebuild his standing in Washington.

Nov 25, 2020 - World

Bibi Barometer: Gantz's "submarine affair" probe signals end of pact

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Pool, Gali Tibbon/Getty Images

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz may have put the last nail in the coffin of Israel's power-sharing government when he formed an inquiry panel to probe the "submarine affair," a scandal that has ensnared some of Netanyahu's close advisers and confidants.

Why it matters: For Netanyahu, this is a declaration of war by his coalition partner. The inquiry could lead to the conclusion that Netanyahu mishandled sensitive national security matters and cause him major political damage.

55 mins ago - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

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