European Union flag (photo ADS)
Israel is cringing under the European Union’s “guideline” requirement– the demand by the EU to “recognize in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.” And Israel is drawing red lines of its own.
This is about a looming deadline for Horizon 2020, an ambitious €80 billion research and innovation project launched by the EU to create job growth and fuel the economy, set to begin January 2014. Israel is the only non-European country offered full partnership in the program, and Israeli officials understand not participating in the project would “cost Israel dearly“.
Talks between the EU and Israel on the technical/professional aspects of the program are set to begin on August 14th and Israeli Ministries are scurrying to formulate a unified response before those talks begin. A lot is riding on Israel convincing the EU to back off. The EU’s adoption of “legislative acts” on Horizon 2020 will take place later this year. Israeli Ministries directly participating in Horizon 2020 are the Economy and Trade Ministry, Education Ministry, and Science and Technology Ministry.
But Israeli meetings about the program have also included the National Security Council/Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry. This is because, according to The Jerusalem Post, “Israel cannot sign a clause that contradicts its own policies and laws.” From the Post:
Israel annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and will not sign a clause saying those areas are not part of Israel. Furthermore, it is also not willing to sign an agreement that discriminates against Israeli entities over the Green Line.
One official said that the internal discussions are not over boycotting the Europeans “to get back at them” but over finding a formula both sides can live with.
The ministers are not in agreement. Naftali Bennett, the new Economy Minister from the Jewish Home party, wants to throw in the towel and end co-operation with the EU. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have gone on the offensive by ordering restrictions on representatives of the EU to access Palestine.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered limitations on the movement of EU representatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip several weeks ago. Ya’alon ordered the defense establishment to cease cooperation in the field with EU representatives. This move includes the cessation of assistance in infrastructure projects in Area C, the areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
Ya’alon also intends to restrict the movement of EU representatives from the Gaza Strip into Israel and back through the Erez checkpoint. Ya’alon’s actions are apparently coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel stands to lose by not participating in the project:
It’s anticipated the country could lose €1bn in R&D funding if the government decides not pull-out. The Israeli government is set to contribute €600m in support funds to Horizon 2020 if it participates.
And Israeli scientists are alarmed by the prospect, Haaretz says:
Israeli scientists warn that cutting ties with the European Union could cause irreparable harm to Israeli research. The researchers were reacting to Economy Ministry Naftali Bennett‘s call for the Israeli government to end all cooperation with the EU in response to new guidelines banning funding to Israeli entities with ties to West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.