Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Agreeing to disagree with the EU on settlements

Agreeing to disagree with the EU on settlements

Horizon 2020 EU scientific project
Earlier this year, the European Union issued a directive which effectively required to push Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines if it wished to receive EU funding for certain projects.  With the tempting bait of participation in the prestigious EuropeanHorizon 2020scientific project, both Europe and Israel have been struggling to find a way to swallow the frog without choking on it.
Thankfully it appears that a compromise has been reached, whereby the two sides will agree to disagree:
On Tuesday night Israel and the European Union (EU) reached a compromise on wording for Israel’s participation in the “Horizon 2020″ European scientific collaboration project. The joint project was thrown in jeopardy by new EU guidelines that boycott entities over the 1949 Armistice line.
Intensive phone conversations between Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni and EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton finally led to the breakthrough. Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin were also involved in the discussions.
In the compromise the EU will note in the agreement that it does not recognize Israeli activities over the 1949 Armistice line and is not prevented from its new boycott guidelines, while Israel will attach a section emphasizing that it does not see in the EU’s stance an obligating legal precedent, reports Mako.
The JPost adds more detail:
According to the compromise, Israel would write explicitly in an appendix to the agreement that it does not accept the guidelines, while the EU will write that the guidelines reflect European policy.
The compromise agreement came after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided at an urgent meeting Sunday evening that a way needed to be found to enable Israel’s participation in the program, and directed Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to do so.
Government officials said that although Netanyahu made clear he wanted a deal, he also made clear that it could not be at any price.
One official said that the moment he charged Livni with this task, instead of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman or Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin – both of whom opposed in principle what they viewed as a European attempt to use an economic agreement to impose their political polices on Israel – it was clear a deal would be reached.
During a day of marathon phone conversations, Livni spoke with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, while Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with her deputy Pierre Vimont.
Wow. Livni and Bennett working together. I admit I am impressed. Kol hakavod to both of them for putting aside their political differences to work together for Israel’s benefit.
Just a few hours before the compromise was agreed upon, Bennett told Israel Radio that people who want to invest in Israel have the right to decide where they want – and do not want – to put their money.
What they do not have the right to do, Bennett said, was impose their political positions in the process.
Even before Tuesday, the EU – in an effort to make the settlement guidelines less visible in the Horizon 2020 agreement – showed flexibility and agreed that entities applying for grants would not have to sign a declaration that the money was not for operations beyond the Green Line, but rather merely click a box saying that they abide by all the stipulations of the agreement.
One Israeli official said the guidelines will mean that Ariel University will not be eligible for EU grant money, and that the government will now have to find a way to compensate it, since it will be at an unfair disadvantage vis-à-vis the other universities eligible for EU funds.
Israel is the only non-EU country to have been asked to join Horizon 2020 as a full partner, and is expected to pay some 600 million euros over the next seven years to take part. This is considered a worthwhile investment, however, because for every shekel contributed, it is expected to get back 150 percent in research funds and other inbound investments.
This is certainly good news, even if of course the best news would have been that the EU recognizes Israel’s rights to Judea and Samaria.
But that would entail pigs to fly. And we all know that pigs aren’t kosher.