Lawmakers on Monday debated whether or not Israel gave in to the European Union’s guidelines on settlements during a celebratory meeting in honor of joining Horizon 2020, the EU’s Framework Program for Research and Innovation.
“The debate with the EU puts Israel at a critical juncture in relation to diplomatic plans, and a decision has to be made about priorities: Judea and Samaria or joining the world economy,” Knesset Science and Technology Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said.
Gafni said membership in Horizon 2020 would help Israel, making it more competitive in industry and strengthening relations with Europe, all of which are “central and important to us.”
Israel’s participation, which was officially launched last week, makes it eligible to compete for €77 billion in industrial research grants over seven years.
Prospective membership hit several road bumps after the EU published guidelines in July that would bar any funds going to ventures located beyond the Green Line, including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. In the end, the two sides “agreed to disagree,” with Israel publishing its reservations in an appendix.
MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) set off a debate during the celebratory meeting by saying that while some viewed signing as surrender, this was not so.
“That is exactly what happened,” MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) retorted.
In replying to Ghattas, Struck said: “Our science is strong and significant, and the Europeans did not want to give up on us. By standing up for our principles we can get what we need. If we were to accept the original conditions, it would have caused damage, which is why it’s important to emphasize that we did not accept their guidelines.”
“But we did accept them,” MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) said. “I’m against boycotts, but we accepted it.”
“The fact that you think we did shows the problem,” Struck answered. “We did not agree that companies with branches in Judea and Samaria would be boycotted.”
Gafni quipped that he was not sure Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would agree with Struck’s interpretation, and Ghattas added that either way the government did the right thing in signing.
MK Erel Margalit (Labor) called to leave politics aside and do whatever is possible to continue cooperating with the EU on research.
“Whoever tries to politicize this process will get a cold shoulder from us, and Israel will remain isolated,” Margalit said.
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the planning and budget committee of the Council for Higher Education said Monday that Horizon 2020 was critical to Israel’s science, technology and industry.
“Israel was accepted to the plan 17 years ago, and it was a diplomatic and technological achievement,” Trajtenberg said. “No single country other than the US has the ability to promote science and research alone. This is not just a matter of money, but of access and the ability to connect with the best scientists in Europe to promote Israeli research.”
According to Trajtenberg, 2,000 scientists had already received grants from the EU and become ambassadors for Israel in Europe.
“We have an army of 2,000 people facing attempts to boycott us. They have close, personal, unmediated interactions with their colleagues,” he added.
“The government made a brave decision to continue participating in the program,” Trajtenberg stated.