Israel Gears Up for EU Negotiations

YERUSHALAYIM -

An early test of the impact of the European Union’s recent decision to sever economic contacts with Israeli entities over the Green Line will come in negotiations with the EU over Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 R&D program, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.

While EU officials said they would be willing to discuss implementation of the ban with Israel in coming months, a senior Israeli official said Monday that “Israel needs to draw its own ‘red lines.’”

Israel is reportedly gearing up for such discussions. An interministerial group was convened by National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror to examine Israel’s participation in what was described as the “lucrative” Horizon program. Representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Economy and Trade Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space were slated to attend.

The issue is also expected to be on the agenda when German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle comes to Yerushalayim early next week.

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s innovation flagship program, aimed at creating jobs and boosting economic growth.

Israel is the only non-EU country that has been invited to join as a full partner, and is expected to pay some 600 million euros over the next seven years to take part. But it’s thought to be worth it, because for every shekel Israel contributes, it can look forward to receiving NIS 1.5 in research funds and other inbound investments.

A key issue to be thrashed out by the ministries is how to approach the demand that Israel sign on to EU agreements stipulating that Yerushalayim and the Golan are not part of Israel, and to agree to accept the EU ban on entities beyond the Green Line.

One official explained that the internal discussions are not over boycotting the Europeans “to get back at them,” but over creating a formula both sides can live with.