Shimon Peres talking with CERN Director general
Shimon Peres talking with CERN Director general Rolf Heuer at the particle accelerator in Geneva. Photo by CERN
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Israel has begun the process of becoming a full member in CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, following the signing of an agreement on Friday that will make Israel an associate member in the prestigious institute straddling the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

In the wake of the agreement, signed by CERN director general Rolf Heuer and Israel's ambassador to the United Nations institutions in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel will hold associate member status for at least two years.

During that time a professional team will prepare its recommendations on upgrading Israel to full membership. The center's 20 members states will then vote on whether to admit Israel as a full member; unanimity is required.

Israel has held observer status in the organization since 1991. This has enabled dozens of Israeli researchers to take part in experiments at the facility's particle accelerators where high-energy physics research is conducted.

Israel also sat in on the open sessions of the CERN council, but had no voting rights.

As a full member, Israel would be able to participate in all CERN meetings and Israeli technology companies could participate in the research tenders that the organization issues.

Currently Israel can only apply for tenders of up to $600,000.