Israel formulating response to EU settlement guidelines before start of Horizon 2020

Israeli official: EU willing to discuss objections to guidelines, but Israel needs to draw its own “red lines”.

August 5, 2013 23:24
2 minute read.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, June 20, 2013.

Netanyahu and Ashton looking sullen 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool )


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The European Union is willing to discuss Israel’s objections to its recently published “settlement guidelines,” but its degree of flexibility on the matter is unclear, and Israel needs to draw its own “red lines,” a senior Israeli official said Monday.

The official’s comments came as National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror convened a meeting of senior officials from a number of ministries – including the Foreign Ministry, the Economy and Trade Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space – to discuss under what conditions Israel could begin negotiations with the EU over its participation in the lucrative Horizon 2020 R&D program.

Those negotiations are set to begin a week from Wednesday. The issue is also expected to be a major focus of attention when German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle comes to Jerusalem early next week.

The EU threw a wrench into Israel’s participation in the 80 billion euro program when it published guidelines last month prohibiting any EU funds in the form of grants, prizes and financial instruments from going to Israeli entities beyond the pre-1967 lines, and also mandating that any future agreements between Israel and the EU incorporate a territorial clause stipulating that the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not part of Israel.

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s innovation flagship program, meant to create jobs and fuel economic growth.

Israel is the only non-EU country that has been asked to join as a full partner, and is expected to pay some 600 million euros over the next seven years to take part. This is considered a worthwhile investment, because for every shekel Israel contributes, it is expected to get back NIS 1.5 in research funds and other inbound investments.

Israel needs to decide whether to begin negotiations over participation in the project, or delay substantive talks on the program until disagreements over the guidelines are resolved.

The internal Israel discussions, one official said, is over red lines. Israel cannot sign a clause that contradicts its own policies and laws. 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 meeting Amidror convened Monday evening was a prelude to a meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to convene in the coming days with the “political echelon” to determine Israel’s red lines, as well as to formulate the tactics to prevent crossing those lines.

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