Settlement Cultural Institutions Left Out of EU Deal May Get Israel's Help

Israel looks to join the European Union’s Creative Europe project even though it would exclude Israeli institutions in East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and West Bank Jewish settlements

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
השבעתו של שר התרבות והספורט חילי טרופר
The inauguration of the Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper in 2020.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / Knesset Spokesperson
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The cabinet authorized Sunday to develop a compensation arrangement for Israeli cultural institutions that are located beyond Israel’s 1967 borders and therefore ineligible for funding from the European Union’s Creative Europe project.

The cabinet said in a clarification Sunday that it would support an agreement with the EU through which Israel would join the program, even though Israeli institutions in East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and West Bank Jewish settlements would not be eligible for the European program funding. Creative Europe is the EU’s key funding program for culture. Israeli officials said they hoped an agreement with the EU can be finalized by October or November.

In 2017, the government headed by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to join the program due to the ban on funding projects beyond the 1967 borders. This wouldn’t be the first time, however, that Israel has agreed to exclude these areas from European funding.

As economy minister in that government, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett consented to a compromise formula that enabled Israel to participate in Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation. With an annual budget exceeding 95 billion euros, it supports scientists in technology fields.

At the time, Bennett agreed to include an appendix to the agreement stating that Israel objects to the EU policy excluding the settlements from funding and that Israeli participation should not be construed as Israeli consent to the European position. A similar provision is expected to be included in the Creative Europe agreement.

Tropper welcomed the plans for Israel to join Creative Europe, calling it an important program that will provide members of the Israeli arts scene “new opportunities for support and cooperation.” He called it an important injection of funding for Israeli culture.

Creative Europe has provided 1.46 billion euros ($1.54 billion) over the past seven years to recipients elsewhere, and as of last year had given grants to 250,000 artists and projects, including hundreds of films and thousands of translations of books.

Israel’s membership in the program will provide Israeli cultural institutions and media outlets with the opportunity to compete on an equal basis as institutions in other member countries for European grants and to foster ties between Israeli artists and their foreign counterparts.

The document the cabinet approved Sunday states that the exclusion of European funding for institutions beyond the 1967 borders could harm their operations and professional development. “Therefore the government is directing the culture and sports minister to develop an arrangement for support for these institutions to equalize the possibilities at their disposal to these of other cultural institutions.”

Israeli funding for the compensation “is not expected to have budgetary significance beyond the [Culture] Ministry’s budget and to the extent that it does, it will be brought to the cabinet for approval,” the document states. The cabinet committed in principle on Sunday to provide 34 million shekels ($10 million) to join Creative Europe.

Membership is expected to be a major achievement for Israel’s cultural scene. In its first phase, theaters, dance companies, those engaged in the plastic arts and authors will be able to apply for funding and books written in Hebrew will be able to qualify for translation through the program.

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