Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Israel Does Not Owe Its Start-Up Nation Status to the European Union

Israel Does Not Owe Its Start-Up Nation Status to the European Union

The Israeli Government will have to make a tough decision in the upcoming days. Should Israel join the EU’s “Horizon 2020” program while publicly subscribing to the EU’s latest position that any Israeli presence beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is illegal? Or will the Israeli government turn down the EU’s demand and forgo the financial and scientific benefits of “Horizon 2020?”

Most Israeli academics and researchers are imploring the Israeli government to join “Horizon 2020” despite the new EU demand (or perhaps, even because of it). However, rejecting the program would not be nearly as catastrophic as some would have us believe.

“Horizon 2020” is the eighth “Framework Program” (FP) of the European Union (EU). Framework Programs are European research and development (R&D) funds that function like an investment fund: member states contribute according to the size of their GDP, and their return on investment (ROI) depends on how many of their companies and research institutes successfully applied for FP grants.
Israel was the first and only non-European country admitted as a full participant in the fifth FP (1998-2002). Subsequently, it took part in FP6 (2002-2006) and in FP7 (2007-2013). Israel owes its FP membership to its scientific excellence, which benefits European R&D. So far, Israel’s participation has made perfect sense, financial-wise. Israel invested €152.1 million in FP5 and got €166.8 million in return. With FP7, Israel invested €535 million and was awarded €698 million. Israel’s stake does more than deliver impressive figures. Its participation fosters valuable scientific cooperation between Israeli and European universities, companies, and research institutes.

Those facts, however, are not accurately reported by Israel’s mainstream media. Yediot Aharonot, for instance, ran a story which claims Israel gets €1.5 for every Euro it invests in FP. In fact, Israel got €1.09 per invested Euro in FP5 and €1.3 per invested Euro in FP7. Yediot Aharonot also misleads its readers by presenting this inaccurate 1.5 figure as guaranteed in “Horizon 2020.” There is no such guarantee. It is fairly reasonable to assume that Israel’s participation will be a fruitful one yet again. Yet claiming, as Yediot Aharonot does, that Israel would invest €600 million and will get €900 in return is simply wrong. Israel won’t lose €300 by not participating in “Horizon 2020”. It will lose valuable scientific partnerships and a likely profitable investment. However, those €600 million can be directly invested into Israel’s own R&D.

In her The Times Of Israel blog, Naomi Chazan even claimed that by not joining “Horizon 2020”, Israel “will bring about the collapse of the foundation stones that have made Israel into a start-up nation”. That is absurd. Israel does not owe its “start-up nation” status to the European Union. The possible loss of some €200 million over six years will not bring about the “collapse” of Israel’s R&D.
The real question is whether or not the undisputable benefit of joining “Horizon 2020” justifies Israel’s acceptance of the new conditions set by the European Union.

On July 19, 2013, the European Commission issued a Directive forbidding any European funding and cooperation with Israeli entities located beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines. Thus, requiring that any agreement signed by an EU member state with Israel should include a clause stating that any territory beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is not part of the State of Israel. Now, the Western Wall and Mount Zion, for example, are beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines. Israel would have to publicly state the “illegality” of its control of those two Jewish historical sites before applying for EU grants. The EU’s demand is not just groundless in international law. It is also deeply offensive.

Obviously, the EU applies double standards to Israel, when comparing to other countries that also hold agreements with the EU. For instance, the EU did sign a customs union with Turkey in 1995. Yet, the EU never announced that Turkish products, produced or manufactured in occupied northern Cyprus, shall be excluded from this customs union. Also in 2005, the EU signed a fisheries agreement with Morocco. This agreement applies to Western Sahara, even though the EU does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the region. The EU has been negotiating a free-trade agreement with India. Still, the applicability of such a deal over the disputed territory of Kashmir is not discussed.

If the EU refuses to amend its new demand, there is no doubt that Israel will face a Cornelian dilemma. Those who support joining “Horizon 2020” in spite of this new EU clause make it a legitimate case. So, they should stop misleading the public with their inaccurate figures and dramatic statements. Rejecting the EU’s legally groundless double-standard should seriously be considered. By doing so, actually bearable consequences will follow.