News / Middle East

    Israel Poised to Halt EU Science Collaboration

    European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) speaks during her meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 20, 2013.
    European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) speaks during her meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 20, 2013.
    Cecily Hilleary
    This week, Israel’s prime minister has an important decision to make:  Should Israel participate in a lucrative, seven-year scientific research program with the European Union? Or should it decline and lose out on potentially millions of dollars in grants for its academic and industrial researchers? 

    The EU and Israel have collaborated in academic and industrial research for years.  Israel has been the only non-European member of the EU Research and Technological Development Framework Programme (FP) since 1996.  Last year, Europe funded nearly 1,500 Israeli researchers working on more than 1,200 projects, making the EU Israel's biggest source of public research funds. 

    This week marks the deadline for signing up to participate in the EU’s Horizon 2020 project, an ambitious seven-year, multi-billion dollar research program that could translate into research grants worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel.  It is set up so that each participating country contributes funds into a common “pot,” then competes against the others for grants.  Israel was expected to contribute about 600 million euros ($785 million) over the next seven years, but could have received back twice that amount in grants.

    And if Israel does not sign up, it will not be eligible for any more European research grants until 2020. 

    So why is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding back?  At issue are some tough conditions set by the EU for doing business with Israel.
     
    The EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem—lands Israel captured during the 1967 Middle East war. 
     
    Last June, the EU clarified those guidelines, saying no money, grants or any other kind of financial investment can be made in any Israeli organization operating in those areas.  To get those investments, Israel would have to sign a clause saying the funds will not be used beyond the 1967 “green line.”  Netanyahu has said he refuses to accept any “external edits” on Israeli borders, and his economics minister, Naftali Bennett, has called the European guidelines “economic terrorism.”

    Michael MannMichael Mann
    x
    Michael Mann
    Michael Mann

    The EU view

    Michael Mann, Chief Spokesperson to E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton, emphasizes there is nothing new to the guidelines, which were adopted on July 19, but are based, he says, on long-standing EU policy. 

    If that is the case, then why such a strong, negative reaction in Israel?

    “I don’t know,” said Mann.  “You would have to ask people in Israel why they’ve reacted in the way they have.  Presumably, it may have drawn attention to this fact.  The policy exists already. 

    "For example, science funding from the European Union should only apply to the recognized territory of Israe," he said. "So I would imagine that people have probably been reminded of this or made aware of this because of the publication of these guidelines, but we would just reiterate that this is not a change in policy, and it’s not anti-Israeli.”

    Mann says that is a point that Catherine Ashton made by phone to Netanyahu last week. 

    “We want Israel to participate in our programs.  We want to work together with our Israeli friends, and we will do all we can to clarify what this means,” Mann said. “Maybe there’s been a misunderstanding in Israel.”

    The legal dispute

    But any misunderstanding, says Yehudit Shier Weisberg, coordinator for the Canadian Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, is solely the EU’s.
     
    “The EU claims that the settlements are illegal. According to international law, this is incorrect,” she said.  “The EU has supported negotiations between the parties, and yet they are taking a stand that is totally against negotiated settlement, because they are pre-determining the results and they are ignoring international law.”
     
    Weisberg cites agreements and conventions dating back to the 1920 San Remo declaration by which, she says, the Allied Nations called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine—including, she says, Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
     
    “The San Remo declaration was unanimously adopted by the League of Nations,” she said, “and this has validity up until this day because of article 80 of the U.N. Charter, which reaffirms the validity of the rights granted to all states or peoples, according to international law, including those adopted by the League of Nations.”
     
    In layman’s terms, she argues that Israel has every legal right to build in the disputed territories.
     
    In Bogota Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the U.S. views the Israeli settlements as “illegitimate,” but added that the issue that must be resolved through negotiations.

    Elisha HaasElisha Haas
    x
    Elisha Haas
    Elisha Haas
    View from the laboratory

    Dr. Elisha Haas heads the biophysics program at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University, where he studies the physics of translating genetic information known as the “second genetic code.”  While his research depends on outside funds, he hopes that Netanyahu will say “No, thanks” to Horizon 2020.

    “The European Union wants to impose on Israel their policy, so they use a boycott in order to bend Israel,” Haas said.  “Science is part of culture.  Keep it out of the political struggle.” 

    The EU guidelines do not apply to all Israeli researchers and organizations, only to those doing business beyond the green line in the occupied territories.  But that does not matter to Hass.

    “That means that if I want to get a grant, I will have to sign [a paper] saying I will not ask for any service by my research assistant who lives in Ariel [an Israeli settlement], across the green line," he said.

    As far as he is concerned, Israel can take the money it would have contributed into Horizon 2020 and grant it directly to its own researchers—who, by the way, can still collaborate with scientists outside of the European Union.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mike
    August 30, 2013 10:46 AM
    If the EU want to collaborate with Israel, of course they can. If they don't want Israel as part of their EU programme, they don't have to include them.... and if they invite Israel to participate, but according to their own political conditions... well, duh - that's their right too.

    What's the outrage? Say yes (like an adult, and adapt) or say no (and shoot the country's economy in the foot out of pride).

    by: SAS from: Atlanta
    August 15, 2013 10:21 AM
    Kudos to the European Union for its firm stance against Israel's illegal settlements of Palestinian lands. In fact, I would be in favour of a total settlement product boycott and an arms embargo on the Israeli apatheid regime.

    by: Cal Kris from: Washington, DC
    August 14, 2013 8:47 AM
    that should be "no idea" -- sorry for my own misspelling!

    by: Tony Bellchambers from: London
    August 14, 2013 3:48 AM
    The Israeli trade minister will be well aware that if his government make further announcements about extending illegal settlements, then the EU will almost certainly act to restrict Israel's preferential access to European Union markets, without which Israel's economy would collapse.

    That is reason enough for the Knesset to tread very carefully indeed. If the talks break down again due to Israeli intransigence then the Netanyahu government might need to find new markets very quickly for its Uzi machine guns, software and re-exported diamonds, in order to maintain its economy and avoid complete dependence on the US for its economic survival.

    And that would effectively make it the (nuclear) arm of the US in the Middle East with a future Knesset effectively subject to the will of Congress. Maybe it would be preferable for Obama to replace Netanyahu as political head - if that brings peace and an end to Israel's political posturing and illegal settlements.

    by: Andi Ali from: England
    August 13, 2013 5:54 PM
    What a lot of nonsense Elisha Haas speaks. There is nothing 'immoral' about banning Israeli organisations outside the Green Line receiving EU grants - it would be a crime to fund the settlements. These places were built on Palestinian land. Personally, I hope the EU starts blocking any Israeli individual or group that operates outside the Green Line.

    by: Cal Kris from: Washington, DC
    August 13, 2013 5:16 PM
    Colombia is misspelled at the end of the article. That's something I know. I have know idea of the veracity or accuracy of anything here about Israel or EU. I do like the interpretation out of Canada.

    by: Stuart D. Dymian
    August 13, 2013 3:24 PM
    The Europeans should decide either to push forward world science, or to dabble in silly political games. Either way, Israeli science will continue to be of superior quality. Not clear why the Europeans are taking this strange sort of road. The Israeli government would probably do better funding its own science directly in any event, irrespective of this silliness.

    by: Elisha Haas from: Bar Ilan University Israe
    August 13, 2013 1:59 PM
    Mr. Mann of the EU is wrong, in the past the EU rejected applications from Ariel university but it never demanded that a grantee of science project should declare participation in the discrimination against other Israelis just because they work in Judea and Samaria. This is whole new immoral ballpark. If Israel would manage its own money for research instead of sending it to the EU and getting it back with conditions, the productivity will increase and the loss due to not participating in the "joint pot" is not that large.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora