The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday that the crisis between Israel and the European Union over the EU's imposition of economic sanctions against Israeli settlements in the West Bank is getting worse.
Recent negotiations between the two sides about the terms for signing the Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement have approached a deadlock after the EU rejected all Israeli proposals regarding easing the EU-imposed restrictions on funding entities in the settlements, Haaretz reported.
Haaretz pointed out that, last July, the European Commission published new instructions regarding the funding of bodies that have links with the settlements. According to the new instructions, the EU's agencies and funds are prevented from providing grants, scholarships or prizes to Israeli entities or activities based in the West Bank settlements.
The new instructions also prevent providing loans to Israeli bodies that are either directly or indirectly active beyond the Green Line. The instructions entail that any agreement between Israel and the EU should include a territorial clause specifying that the agreement does not include settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. "Due to the new guidelines, the agreement on the scientific cooperation initiative Horizon 2020 has become a point of contention between Israel and the EU," Haaretz noted.
Under Horizon 2020, Israeli research institutions and high-tech companies are entitled to get 300 million euros over the next seven years. Failure to sign the agreement could cause Israel a loss of about one and half billion shekels.
"The Committee of University Heads and the Council for Higher Education's Budgeting and Planning Committee have expressed great concern over the damage to Israeli academia if the agreement is not signed," Haaretz added.
On November 5, the outgoing Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Rafi Barak sent a message to the EU's Deputy Foreign Affairs Chief Pierre Vimont. Barak put forward an Israeli proposal of a settlement for signing the scientific cooperation agreement.
The proposal indicated Israel's willingness to accept the European Union's policy not to transfer money and funding" to the settlements. Israel requested that a provision be added stating that Israeli recognition of this condition would not set permanent borders in advance in the framework of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It also demanded that the EU's new regulations on settlements not be mentioned directly in the text of the agreement.
Contrary to the new European instructions that oblige the Israeli authorities who request funding from EU funds to declare that they are working or settling behind the Green Line, Israel demanded that the Israeli authorities could state in the funding request that they adhere to all the conditions required for obtaining funding from the European Union.
"Israel also asked that the EU not forbid loans to agencies that operate indirectly in the settlements, and proposed the establishment of a mechanism to address the issue of loans," Haaretz pointed out.
The newspaper quoted officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying that the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs at the European Union sent a response to the Israelis stating that the EU rejects the majority of the Israeli requests.
The newspaper pointed out that Israel has not officially responded to the EU yet, and that a decision must be taken within two weeks.
Sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry also said that the failure to sign the agreement within a week may lead to the loss of European grants for research and development in Israeli universities. The same sources added that Israel can later join the agreement of scientific cooperation. It also intends to ask European countries who support Israel's position to put pressure on Brussels.
Report by Arab48