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Israel Agrees to Recognize EU Ban on Funding Institutions in Settlements

Agreement is part of proposal submitted to enable Israel to participate in joint 'Horizon 2020 initiative'; recognition does not mean preduging permanent borders, to be determined in negotiations.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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The Israeli settlement of Har Adar, just beyond the Green Line.
The Israeli settlement of Har Adar, just beyond the Green Line.Credit: Emil Salman
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Israel has given the European Union a final proposal for the wording of the agreement governing Israeli scientific cooperation and participation in the joint Horizon 2020 initiative. Israel’s participation in the European Union’s R&D program for the years 2014-2020, known as Horizon 2020, has become controversial because of the new European sanctions against Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line. In the new wording given to senior EU officials in Brussels, Israel has agreed for the first time to recognize the EU’s policy of not allowing the transfer of EU funding to bodies in the settlements and to accept it.

The Horizon 2020 agreement has become a major point of contention between the EU and Israel in recent months, fueling tension between the two parties. In July the European Commission released new guidelines for EU agencies, banning the financing or providing of loans, grants, scholarships or prizes to any institutions in or affiliated with the settlements. In some cases, such as loans, the ban will also apply to Israeli institutions that operate over the Green Line - directly or indirectly. The new rules also state that any agreement between Israel and the EU must include a section stating that the settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights are not part of the State of Israel.

European diplomats said the EU ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, assembled the 28 ambassadors to Israel from the EU member nations on Monday and informed them of the details of the Israeli proposal. Faaborg-Andersen said the negotiations being held between the sides are progressing in a positive fashion and he hopes that in the next few days the two sides will reach an acceptable wording that will allow them to sign the agreement by the end of the month.

Israel is also interested in adding a section to the agreement expressing its reservations about some of the matters involved. A European diplomat said the new section would emphasize that Israeli recognition of the EU policy on prohibiting the funding of organizations in the settlements does not mean it will prejudge the permanent borders to be determined in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Senior Israeli officials confirmed what the European diplomats told Haaretz. The Israeli officials noted that Israel’s proposal is “far-reaching” in terms of Israel’s willingness to recognize EU policy concerning the settlements. But, said the officials, Israel still refuses to allow the explicit mention of the new EU guidelines on the settlements in the agreement.

It is still unclear whether the Israeli proposal will be accepted by the EU. It is now being examined by Pierre Vimont, the deputy chief of EU foreign affairs, and by Christian Berger, the head of the European Commission’s Middle East department, who wrote the new guidelines on the settlements. Israel expects to receive an answer from the EU by the end of this week.

The Horizon 2020 program could bring hundreds of millions of euros into the coffers of Israeli research institutes and high-tech companies. If Israel joins Horizon 2020, it will transfer about 600 million euros to the EU over the next seven years and will allow universities, researchers and companies from Israel to receive funding and grants for projects in many technological fields. For every euro Israel transfers as part of the project, it will get back a euro and a half. Israel is the only non-European country eligible to participate in the program as a member with full rights, and even now it is participating in an EU research and development program that will conclude at the end of the year.

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