Israel and the European Union are expected to begin talks on Israel’s participation in the lucrative Horizon 2020 R&D program as scheduled on Wednesday, despite deep differences between the two sides regarding the EU’s latest settlement guidelines.
Those differences emerged at a meeting Monday between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Netanyahu said the recent EU settlement guidelines – which have cast a pall over EU-Israel relations – are undermining peace by hardening Palestinian positions.
The meeting with Westerwelle took place at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, less than a day after Netanyahu was released from the hospital following an emergency hernia operation.
Israel, Netanyahu said, was working toward peace and committed to peace, a goal, he said, shared with Germany, which he termed a “friend” of Israel.
But, he said, “I have to say, on a sad note, that I think Europe, the European guidelines [on the settlements] have actually undermined peace.”
The guidelines, published last month and due to go into effect on January 1, forbid EU grants, prizes and loans from going not only to Israeli entities located beyond the Green Line, but also to Israeli entities that have any activity beyond the post-1967 lines. They call on Israel to sign a territorial clause reneging on claims to east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank before entering into any further agreements with the EU.
These guidelines, Netanyahu said, have “hardened Palestinian positions, they seek an unrealistic end that everybody knows is not going to happen, and I think they stand in the way of reaching a solution which will only be reached by negotiations by the parties, and not by an external dictate. I think this is something that you know very well.”
Israel is attempting to get the EU’s political leaders to lean on the EU bureaucrats, who drew up the guidelines, to modify them in order to enable continued agreements between Israel and the EU in the future.
Netanyahu is expected to talk with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the near future, before Wednesday’s planned meeting on Israel’s participation in the 80-billioneuro Horizon 2020 R&D program.
Israel is the only non-EU country that has been asked to join the program, and is expected to invest some 600 million euros in it over the next seven years, with an expectation of getting back 900 million euros in research funds and other inbound investments.
While Wednesday’s first meeting was originally supposed to deal with professional and scientific issues having to do with the partnership, Israeli diplomatic officials said that now the focus would be on the political issues.
Senior diplomatic sources said last week, following a high-level ministerial meeting on the matter chaired by Netanyahu, that Israel would not be able to sign further agreements with the EU under the terms of the settlement guidelines as currently configured.