If “positive understandings” with the EU regarding implementation of settlement
guidelines cannot be reached, Israel will not join the Horizon 2020 R&D
program, a Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday at the opening of talks
on the issue.
At the beginning, in Tel Aviv, of the first EU-Israel
meeting to discuss Israel’s participation in the lucrative project, Foreign
Minister deputy director-general for economic affairs Irit Ben-Abba – who led
the Israeli delegation at the talks – made it clear that Israel took a grave
view of the new EU guidelines, which prohibit funding to Israel entities in east
Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
“Israel expressed its
hope that a way to reach positive understandings on the guidelines’
implementation will be found, so as to enable Israel to participate in Horizon
2020,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It was emphasized that, should such
understandings not be reached, Israel will be unable to join the European
One ministry official, however, said that if a
conversation on the matter on Friday night between Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was any indication, there
was no guarantee that an agreement could be found.
The official said that
the conversation was “very difficult,” and that Ashton did not acknowledge that
there was a problem with the guidelines, saying instead that she received
plaudits from various European foreign ministers for drawing them
“They are not convinced there is a problem,” the official
The guidelines call, among other elements, for Israel to sign a
“territorial clause” before entering into any new agreements with the EU that
would say that the agreement is inapplicable in east Jerusalem, the Golan
Heights or the West Bank. Israel interprets this as an attempt by the EU to get
Israel to sign a waiver of claims to these areas before being able to enter
agreements with the EU.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Wednesday’s
discussions in Tel Aviv with senior officials from the EU’s directorate- general
for Research and Innovation focused on drafting a memorandum of understanding
that will detail the rules and procedures governing Israel’s participation in
the program, including the financial aspects.
Israel is expected to
invest some 600 million euros over the next seven years in the flagship EU
research and development program, and get back in inbound grants and investments
some 900m. euros. Israel has taken part in the major EU R&D project since
The EU issued a release following the talks saying that the
negotiations were limited to “exploratory talks on technical and financial
aspects” of the program. Discussions on the “territorial scope of the future
memorandum” and the application of the settlement guidelines will start, the
statement said, during the second round of negotiations to take place in
Brussels in September.
Israel Radio, meanwhile, reported that Ruth Arnon,
the president of the Israel Academy of Sciences, wrote a letter to Netanyahu
warning that giving up on Israel’s participation in the program would be an
“irreversible step” that would damage Israel’s scientific
Arnon wrote, according to the report, that while it was
possible to find a substitute to the money expected to come into Israel as a
result of its participation in the program, there is no substitute to Israeli
universities and industry cooperating with the EU. Arnon wrote that Israel
receives more research grants per capita from the EU than any other country.