EU weighs Israeli proposals to resolve settlement guidelines dispute

Foreign Ministry officials meet with EU delegation in hopes of finding compromise that will allow future agreements.

Netanyahu and Ashton looking sullen 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool )
Netanyahu and Ashton looking sullen 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool )
The European Union is weighing Israeli proposals for compromise language with regard to its guidelines against West Bank settlements that would allow the two entities to continue to sign cooperative agreements.
On Sunday, an EU delegation, led by executive secretary-general of the European External Action Service Pierre Vimont was in Israel and met with officials in the Foreign Ministry on the issue.
“Yesterday, the EU and Israel held serious and pragmatic discussions on mutually acceptable ways to ensure full Israeli participation in EU programs, notably Horizon 2020,” a diplomatic source said. “The EU side returned to Brussels with detailed suggestions made by the Israeli side: these will be considered further and will be subject to further discussion as soon as possible.”
Failure to find an accommodating position on the issue of West Bank settlements could make it impossible for Israel to sign a new agreement to participate in the EU’s major research and development program, known as Horizon 2020, which Israel has been involved with since 1996.
Israel has until the end of November or the start of December to sign onto the program.
But it won’t do so, if the EU inserts language into the document, that explicitly prohibits funding or prizes to Israeli entities located over the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem.
While these guidelines express existing EU policy, the insertion of new more explicit language on West Bank settlements into its new agreements with Israel, would keep Jerusalem from signing such documents.
Last week, while vice president of the European Commission Antonio Tajani visited Israel, preliminary agreements were signed on industrial cooperation and small and medium enterprises.
The Israel Space Agency last week signed a preliminary document of what could be its first cooperative agreement with the European Union in the field of satellite navigation.
But none of these three agreements can be finalized, unless acceptable language is found to reference the EU’s West Bank settlement guidelines.
While Tajani was in Israel last week with a mission of 65 EU companies and organizations, he spoke with President Shimon Peres of the importance of Israel-EU ties, particularly with respect to business, science, technology, aviation and tourism.
Tajani added that Horizon 2020 was offered many cooperative opportunities for the two parties to work on research and innovation.
“Israel is very important for us. Israel is a friend of Europe. We have the same history, the same heritage the same culture,” Tajani said.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who met with Tajani, said he told the EU politician that the “current guidelines are unacceptable. He [Tajani] said they were working to make them acceptable.”
Bennett added that Tajani “was very warm.”
In the past year, Europe has taken a harsher stance with Israel against its West Bank settlements, which it believes are illegal. Israel has said that the EU’s attitude on territory over the pre-1967 lines is harmful to the peace process, because it prejudges the outcome of the negotiations it is holding with the Palestinians.