Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gambled on Thursday that threatening the European Union over its recent guidelines to ban funding for anyone dealing with post-1967 Israel won’t backfire and cost the country financially, politically and academically.
He made a decision Thursday, along with several ministers at a Defense Ministry meeting Thursday, not to sign any new agreements with the EU unless it agrees to reword, or “clarify” last month’s guidelines that bar funding, grants or prizes for ventures in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and areas of Jerusalem formerly occupied by Jordan.
The guidelines followed a decision made by the foreign ministers of EU member states at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Dec. 10 in which they said that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the European Union must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
The decision places a question mark over the Horizon 2020 program to promote scientific research and development. Israel is the only non-European country that has been asked to join the prestigious program.
If the Prime Minister gets his way and the European Union blinks first, he could be riding high in the saddle again.
But unless Israel already has scouted out support from key EU nations, he is placing little Israel, despite its scientific and technological clout, against the gigantic European Union as well as directly challenging its political muscle.
The European Union already has publicly stated it will not cancel, modify or delay the implementation of the guidelines published last month and set to take effect in January 2014.
The EU stands to lose if Netanyahu lives up to his threat not to sign any new agreements. Immediate results would be the loss of Israel’s contribution of more than $800 million to the Horizon 2020 program over seven years, plus the loss of Israel’s scientific input.
But the cost to Israel for opting out could be far, far greater if the EU gets its back up and decides to teach Netanyahu a lesson that he cannot play David and throw rocks at the EU Goliath. Israel could be a double-loser, once for not being a part of agreements that could profit the country and the second time for pushing the EU into writing in stone the ban on aid to post-1967 Israel.
The negative impact on Israel’s standing in the international scientific community would be “devastating,” the Times of Israel wrote Thursday, citing academics.
If the EU does not back down, Israel also will lose financially and politically. The country stands to gain more in future revenues that it is supposed to invest in the Horizons 2020 program.
A refusal by the EU to agree to amend the guidelines also would humiliate Israel politically, leaving it weaker than ever in the talks with the Palestinian Authority and which are being conducted under the guiding hand of the Obama administration. Washington has stated over and over that Israel has no “legitimacy” in all of the land claimed by the Palestinian Authority.
Israel already has lost the opportunity to use facts, legal arguments and logic to support a Jewish presence in all of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights. Its lack of explanations and two decades of gradual political and security concessions have allowed nearly the entire international community, as well as most foreign journalists, to claim that Jewish “settlers” are illegal and an obstacle to peace.
Not even the deadly results of the deadly Oslo accords, the total withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza and the expulsion of civilian Jews living there have changed international opinion.
Among the changes that will be requested in the new EU guidelines, according to Haaretz, are to drop the demand that Israeli groups be required to submit a written declaration to the EU foundations that they have no direct or indirect connections with groups in the territories; to remove the stipulation that an indirect connection to the settlements makes Israeli groups ineligible for EU grants and loans; and to drop the territorial clause in the agreement, which states that Israel recognizes that it is not sovereign beyond the 1967 lines and that the agreement does not apply to those areas.
The ban is considered by Israel as proof that the European Union cannot be an honest broker in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over a future PA state. However, not all of the ministers at Thursday’s meeting agree that the ban is harmful to the renewed talks.
About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.
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