A stop sign is seen outside a West Bank Jewish settlement.
Two senior EU diplomats will meet Tuesday with high level officials in the
Foreign Ministry to try to hammer out “understandings” on the implementation of
the EU settlement guidelines that will enable Israel to continue to participate
in EU programs.
Pierre Vimont, secretary general of the European External
Action Service (EEAS), and Christian Berger, EEAS director for North Africa,
Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq, are scheduled to meet Foreign
Ministry director-general Rafi Barak, deputy director- general Ran Curiel and
other senior ministry officials.
The meeting follows intensive Israeli
diplomatic efforts aimed at convincing the political leadership in Europe to
show flexibility regarding the settlement guidelines published in July
mandated an end to any EU financial cooperation with any Israeli entity beyond
the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem.
On Saturday, US Secretary
John Kerry urged the EU foreign ministers
to delay action on the guidelines
while the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are underway. Diplomatic officials
said most of the EU foreign ministers were interested in finding a solution to
Israel has said it will not be able to sign an agreement to
join the EU’s massive Horizon 2020 R&D project under the terms of the
guidelines. A second meeting on Israel’s participation in the project is
scheduled for Thursday in Brussels.
Both Israel and the EU stand to
benefit from Israel’s involvement – Israel because of funds it stands to gain as
a result of participation, and the EU because of benefits it will accrue from
Israeli research and technology.
Diplomatic officials said in advance of
Tuesday’s meeting that while it was unlikely the guidelines would be changed,
the hope was that understandings would be reached regarding their implementation
that will make them more palatable to Israel.
One official reiterated
Israel’s position regarding the guidelines, in that they are: onesided;
determine the future border between Israel and a future Palestinian state;
include east Jerusalem and the settlement blocs; and play into maximalist
In a related development, Deputy Foreign Minister
Ze’ev Elkin rejected the findings of an internal Foreign Ministry investigation
he ordered to look into how Israel was surprised by the announcement of the
guidelines in July.
A spokesperson in his office said that the report,
penned by officials in the director-general’s office, downplayed the degree to
which Israel was surprised by the EU decision to publicize the guidelines,
saying that this was a trend that Israel was aware of.
said Elkin did not want to see the issue “whitewashed,” and that with an Israeli
ambassador in Brussels to deal specifically with the EU institutions and
bureaucracy, he wanted to understand why Israel was caught “asleep at the wheel”
in this case, in order to ensure it does not happen again.
rejection of the report will further strain already tense relations he has with
some of the ministry's top professionals.
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