Bennett Uses His Veto Power to Block European Funding for Israeli Artists

Israel had already joined the European Union's flagship 'Creative Europe' project, but a clause excluding West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights led the alternate prime minister to pull the country out of the arrangement altogether

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The Ariel Culture Center, 2010.
The Ariel Culture Center, 2010.Credit: Alon Ron

Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vetoed on Thursday Israel's prior decision to join the EU's "Creative Europe" funding scheme. The scheme, designed to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for culture and media initiatives chosen from among the signatory states, includes a clause that prohibits allocation of funds to artists in West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Bennett had previously arranged that Israeli settlements be exempt from a similar ban in the EU's "Horizon" platform, which allocates large sums to tech-scientists working in research and innovation.

Bennett said that he took the decision because to his mind an interim government should not make any drastic and controversial moves, particularly if they are not pressing. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked claims that she was the one who encouraged Bennett to take the decision to pull Israel out of the funding scheme.

"The self-righteous Europeans have to understand that there is no distinction between Tel Aviv, Ariel or Othniel. All Israeli citizens are equal, and I will not allow any European discrimination to filter through into Israel," said the Habayit Hayehudi chairwoman.

Last June, the government provisionally approved the allocation of 34 million shekels (approximately 9.5 million dollars) for the scheme, which includes funding for films, translations of movies and literature and the creation of cultural institutions. Furthermore, Shaked authorized the culture minister Chili Trooper to establish a funding scheme to compensate those institutions that were excluded from "Creative Europe" due to their location.

Israel had hoped to finalize the agreement with the EU by November, allowing local culture and media institutions to compete for funding on equal footing with their European counterparts, establish ties with foreign artists and organizations, add some external funding sources to their projects, and strengthen Israel's relationship with the European Union member states.

Over the last seven years, the EU's funding scheme has allocated over 1.64 billion euros, supporting over 250 artists and initiatives, including hundreds of films and thousands of literary translations in many languages. This is EU's flagship funding scheme aimed at bolstering cultural cooperation between member states, and in 2007 the Netanyahu government removed Israel from the program due to an identical exclusion clause.

Trooper said that "this is a crucial funding scheme for Israeli culture, which was unanimously backed by all government ministers, including those who now take a U—turn for the sake of their election campaign. It is important to note that the territorial clause is identical to the one the Netanyahu government had previously approved, with the support of both Bennett and minister Shaked.

"Accordingly, the government has decided to create a funding compensation scheme for artists and cultural organizations beyond the green line, so that all Israeli artists can benefit from the support. We hope that the agreement will eventually be approved".

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