An Israeli government discussion convened Thursday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded with the decision to seek the rewording of recently published EU guidelines which would render all EU-Israel agreements inapplicable to Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied in 1967. Israel will clarify to the EU that under the guidelines as currently published, it will not sign agreements with the EU.
The Israeli media reports that participants in the meeting agreed that the EU guidelines “substantially harm” the peace process restarted recently under American pressure, an ironic understanding in a week in which substantial West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement construction was announced.
Participating in this morning’s discussion were Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Education Minister Shay Piron (Yesh Atid), Science Minister Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid), Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah), Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Likud) and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud).
Participants decided to submit reservations to the EU concerning the guidelines. Israeli officials don’t believe it is possible to annul the guidelines, which have already been published and will take effect in 2014, but seek instead their “rewording”.
Accordingly, it was decided not to boycott the first discussion with EU representatives on Israel joining Horizon 2020, slated to begin on 14 August. Horizon 2020, or the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, is a flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness. Israel is the sole non-EU country invited to join the prestigious initiative as a full member. While the issue of Horizion 2020 was not explicitly discussed in today’s meeting, it was understood that Israel would attend the 14 August discussions with the EU whilst clarifying that without a rewording of the guidelines, it could not join the project.
The Ministry of Economy claims that should Israel not participate in the Horizon 2020 project, Israel will lose no more than EUR 300 million. This is a sum Israel can live with. However, it would be a major setback for Israeli policy and diplomacy to accept the European sovereignty requirements. Leaders of Israeli universities have also been quoted that while the economic loss may not be so great, not participating in Horizon 2020 would have a detrimental impact on Israeli academia, science and R&D.
According to the new EU guidelines, published on June 30, any funding or financial investment, and granting of stipends, scholarships or prizes by EU agencies or foundations to Israeli groups connected directly or indirectly to the settlements will be banned. The guidelines also determine that in any agreement between Israel and the EU there must be a clause to the effect that the settlements on the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not a part of the State of Israel.
The relations between Israel and the European Union are framed in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and the Union for the Mediterranean.
The main legal ties between Israel and the EU are established by the 1995 Association Agreement and several other agreement covering specific issues.
The EU-Israel Association Agreement, signed in Brussels on 20 November 1995 and entered into force on 1 June 2000, is the legal basis governing relations between Israel and the European Union. The agreement incorporates free trade arrangements for industrial goods, as well as concessionary arrangements for trade in agricultural products.
The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), the largest European coalition of organisations in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and justice, welcomed the new guidelines published by the EU. In a statement issued, the ECCP noted that this was an important first step ” to ensure that EU governments and their respective companies refrain from ongoing complicity in Israel’s illegal system of apartheid and injustice against the Palestinian people”.
The June 30 guidelines positing territorial limitations to EU agreements with Israel comply with a clause added in 2005 that customs exemptions do not apply to West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement products. Moreover, according to a statement published Tuesday by the delegation of the European Union to Israel, these guidelines follow the EU position that “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.”
Deputy EU Ambassador to Israel, Sandra De Waele, said in an interview with Israeli radio Reshet Bet that the guidelines are not a new policy, but a demand to refer explicitly to already existing agreements in any future agreement signed between the EU and Israel.
* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)