Israeli, EU representatives to meet today on European body’s settlement guidelines

Official says hope is that understanding can be reached with regard to implementation that would be palatable to Israel.

A stop sign is seen outside a West Bank Jewish settlement (photo credit: Reuters)
A stop sign is seen outside a West Bank Jewish settlement
(photo credit: Reuters)
Two senior EU diplomats will meet Tuesday with high level officials in the Foreign Ministry to try to hammer out “understandings” on the implementation of the EU settlement guidelines that will enable Israel to continue to participate in EU programs.
Pierre Vimont, secretary general of the European External Action Service (EEAS), and Christian Berger, EEAS director for North Africa, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq, are scheduled to meet Foreign Ministry director-general Rafi Barak, deputy director- general Ran Curiel and other senior ministry officials.
The meeting follows intensive Israeli diplomatic efforts aimed at convincing the political leadership in Europe to show flexibility regarding the settlement guidelines published in July, which mandated an end to any EU financial cooperation with any Israeli entity beyond the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem.
On Saturday, US Secretary John Kerry urged the EU foreign ministers to delay action on the guidelines while the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are underway. Diplomatic officials said most of the EU foreign ministers were interested in finding a solution to the issue.
Israel has said it will not be able to sign an agreement to join the EU’s massive Horizon 2020 R&D project under the terms of the guidelines. A second meeting on Israel’s participation in the project is scheduled for Thursday in Brussels.
Both Israel and the EU stand to benefit from Israel’s involvement – Israel because of funds it stands to gain as a result of participation, and the EU because of benefits it will accrue from Israeli research and technology.
Diplomatic officials said in advance of Tuesday’s meeting that while it was unlikely the guidelines would be changed, the hope was that understandings would be reached regarding their implementation that will make them more palatable to Israel.
One official reiterated Israel’s position regarding the guidelines, in that they are: onesided; determine the future border between Israel and a future Palestinian state; include east Jerusalem and the settlement blocs; and play into maximalist Palestinian positions.
In a related development, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin rejected the findings of an internal Foreign Ministry investigation he ordered to look into how Israel was surprised by the announcement of the guidelines in July.
A spokesperson in his office said that the report, penned by officials in the director-general’s office, downplayed the degree to which Israel was surprised by the EU decision to publicize the guidelines, saying that this was a trend that Israel was aware of.
The spokesperson said Elkin did not want to see the issue “whitewashed,” and that with an Israeli ambassador in Brussels to deal specifically with the EU institutions and bureaucracy, he wanted to understand why Israel was caught “asleep at the wheel” in this case, in order to ensure it does not happen again.
Elkin’s rejection of the report will further strain already tense relations he has with some of the ministry's top professionals.