Netanyahu Agrees to Exclude Settlements From Economic Deal With European Union

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given approval in principle to a cooperation agreement with the European Union that contains a provision excluding the settlements.

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Netanyahu approved the wording of a cabinet resolution on the subject this week. If no ministers object to the resolution by January 1, it will be approved automatically. If so, Israel will effectively have consented to EU funding that is contingent on a boycott of the settlements.

The resolution has now been signed by all the relevant government offices, including those of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), two of the most vocal settlement supporters in the government.

The agreement, known by the acronym ENI CBC Med (which stands for “cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean), awards tens of millions of euros in funding to ventures that entail cooperation with the 14 Mediterranean Basin countries that aren’t EU members. These include Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The project’s goal is to promote the region’s socioeconomic development and encourage innovation and competition in fields such as education, research, technology, employment and environmental sustainability. It does so by awarding grants to both public and private bodies from the participating states that submit suitable proposals.

In line with EU policy, the project includes a provision stating explicitly that it doesn’t apply in areas outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. This means companies or organizations located in West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights will not be able to participate or receive funding.

About a year ago, Haaretz reported that Israel’s participation in another EU project – Creative Europe, which focuses on culture and media – was torpedoed at the last moment by Culture Minister Miri Regev because it contained a similar territorial provision. That deal, too, had originally been approved by Netanyahu. Because it ultimately wasn’t approved by the cabinet, Israeli artists and cultural institutions lost the ability to compete for EU grants.

In 2013, in contrast, Israel signed the Horizons 2020 scientific cooperation agreement with the EU, albeit only after a political uproar. Then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the EU’s then-foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, reached a deal under which Israel’s objection to the territorial provision would be noted in the agreement.

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