Israel joined on Monday the EU's multi-billion-euro research funding program for the next seven years.
Horizon Europe is the EU's main program for funding research and innovation, and has a budget of 95.5 billion euros (around $110 billion). While Israeli researcher will be benefit from the deal, it will also help Israel to establish closer relations with the EU.
The deal for Israel's participation in the program forbids it from investing the funds beyond its pre-1967 borders and bars academic and research institutions in settlements from participating.
Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for Horizon Europe, has signed the agreement alongside Israel's ambassador to the EU and NATO Haim Regev.
“I look forward to new success stories," Gabriel said. "In partnership with Israel, I hope to boost our innovation capacity in support of green and digital agendas and enhance science cooperation in the region as a tool for greater peace and security,” she added.
In 2017, then-Culture Minister Miri Regev prevented Israel from signing a similar agreement that would have funneled large sums to cultural institutions because of a clause prohibiting the use of its funds in the West Bank. The Foreign Ministry has refused to publish the final draft of the agreement and says it will do so when the signing takes place in December.
Since 2013, the EU has forbidden member states to fund, cooperate with or grant scholarships, research grants, and prizes to groups or individuals within West Bank settlements, the Golan Heights, or the parts of Jerusalem outside of Israel's pre-1967 borders. Additionally, the policy set in 2013 established that any future agreement signed with Israel must contain a clause asserting that the settlements are not part of Israel and are therefore not part of the agreement.
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Israel signed the previous agreement on science funding, Horizon 2020, in 2013, after lengthy negotiations led by the Justice Minister at the time, Tzipi Livni.
Naftali Bennett, who was then economy minister, supported joining the program despite a clause regarding settlements, partly because a statement was added saying that the settlements' status within the agreement does not constitute an Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 borders. The original agreement said that the agreement did not apply to areas administered by Israel after June 5, 1967. A subsequent addition requested by Israel stated that the parties agreed "the application of this agreement is without prejudice to the status of those areas." The Foreign Ministry announced that identical wording will be included in the new deal.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called it a "diplomatic achievement." "Israel can contribute a lot to the program," Lapid added.
Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said that "this is the 25th year, Israel has taken part in the program," and Israeli researches are among the ones leading the world in receiving research grants.
Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman dubbed it also as an economic achievement. The program, he said, "elevates the quality of Israeli research and boosts the economy."