Agreement With EU in Doubt

YERUSHALAYIM -

As Israel began discussions with the European Union concerning implementation of new guidelines banning cooperation with businesses over the Green Line, Israeli officials privately expressed doubts about the prospect of reaching an agreement, The Jerusalem Post reported.

If “positive understandings” with the EU regarding the guidelines cannot be worked out, Israel will not join the lucrative Horizon 2020 R&D program, a Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday.

“Israel expressed its hope that a way to reach positive understandings on the guidelines’ implementation will be found, so as to enable Israel to participate in Horizon 2020,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It was emphasized that should such understandings not be reached, Israel will be unable to join the European R&D program.”

One ministry official, however, said that a recent meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton did not bode well for negotiations. He described the conversation as “very difficult,” and said Ashton would not even acknowledge that there was a problem with the guidelines, for which she had been praised by European foreign ministers.

The guidelines call, among other things, for Israel to sign a “territorial clause” in any new agreements with the EU that stipulates the agreement does not apply in eastern Yerushalayim, the Golan Heights or Yehudah and Shomron. In Israel’s view, this would in effect mean a waiver of its claims to these regions, which it is not willing to make.

The EU issued a release following the opening talks saying that the negotiations were limited to “exploratory talks on technical and financial aspects” of the program. Discussions on the “territorial scope of the future memorandum” and the application of the guidelines will start, the statement said, during the second round of negotiations to take place in Brussels in September.