Israel has bowed to European Union demands to deny funding eligibility to Israeli scientific enterprises operating in Jewish settlements. It thereby removed a key obstacle to finalising a deal for Israel´s participation in the multi-million dollar research programme Horizon 2020.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she had struck a compromise with EU head Catherine Ashton to try to rescue the funding ahead of a Dec. 1 deadline. Far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet resisted EU demands to expressly deny its funds for the first time to Israeli projects in Israeli-occupied
land. Livni said she struck a compromise with Ashton that softened the programme's restrictions by permitting Israel to specify in a note that it objects to Europe's policy.
"The Europeans don't want their money in settlements and that's their right, but Israel expressed its position that it doesn't accept this European position," she told Israel Radio. Had Israel not compromised, some 2,000 scientists could have
lost funding, Livni said, adding Israel also risked loss of its prestige as a "start-up nation" also known as a high-tech hub. "We would have isolated ourselves," she said.
The EU's main demands were met by the deal, EU representative in Israel, Faaborg-Andersen said. "There will be no EU funds spent in settlements, and that is the key for us."
Further steps against the settlements are expected next year with the EU's Executive Commission announced plans to bar financial assistance to any Israeli group operating in the West Bank from 2014.
Horizon 2020 calls for dividing up some 80 billion euros in matching funds among promising scientist applicants over seven years. Israel, the only non-European partner in the project, is expected to provide a billion euros, and receive 1.5 billion back for its scientists.
Zeev Elkin, Israel's far-right deputy foreign minister, vowed to seek compensation for scientific enterprises in settlements losing out to any European funding restrictions.