Report: EU to bypass its own anti-settlements guidelines

Israeli and European officials are reportedly nearing an agreement that would allow Israeli institutions to continue operating freely in the West Bank while enjoying EU grants.

Report: EU to bypass its own anti-settlements guidelines
Catherine Ashton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (European Union / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In coordination with Israeli officials, the EU is about to introduce a solution that would allow Israeli institutions — which are invested in or profit from the occupation — to enjoy EU grants, according to a report in the Israel’s Maariv newspaper (Hebrew).

The new directives will enable Israeli companies and institutions to divert money into investments in the settlements and in Jewish enterprises beyond the Green Line through subsidiaries or divisions, all while receiving EU grants funds through their main operational budgets. If implemented, the new mechanism would allow Israel to join the prestigious Horizon 2020 program, which should result in 300 million euros of support to Israeli scientific and academic institutions.

Last July, the EU published a Commission Notice regarding EU grants, prizes and programs in Israel and the occupied territories.

The most important article Article 12B stated that, “Israeli entities will be considered eligible as final recipients [of loans] if they do not operate in the territories [conquered on June 1967].” According to the guidelines, Israeli institutions that applied for EU grants would be required to declare that they do not operate beyond the Green Line (read the full guidelines here).

The guidelines are not binding for EU member-states and do not apply to individual Israeli citizens.

The Commission Notice received much attention in Israel and was perceived as the first actual step against Israel’s colonization of the West Bank to be taken by the international community .

A special ministerial panel headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to reject the new guidelines and enter into negotiations with the EU seeking a mechanism that would allow Israeli entities to continue receiving grants while operating beyond the Green Line. Specifically, the talks were meant to find a way for Israel to join the Horizon 2020 program.

In recent weeks, right-wing officials predicted that Israel’s insistence would bear fruit and that both sides will be able to reach a “compromise,” which will allow Israel to operate freely in the West Bank and allow European political and bureaucratic officials to save face by not forcing them to completely abandon their decision.

According to the report in Maariv, two major changes will be entered into the guidelines: first, Israeli institutions will not be required to state that they do not operated beyond the Green Line when applying for EU grants. Instead, it will be the EU that will need to monitor and find proof that an institution is operating in the occupied territories.

Second, the institution will continue to operate freely in the settlements, as long as its headquarters is in within the Green Line. According to Maariv, the specific details of this understanding are still being debated: while the Israelis are suggesting that a company’s zip code will be enough to determine the location of its operations, the Europeans are demanding the registration of a sub-contractor that will operate beyond the Green Line.

Regardless of the final details, any alteration to the guidelines will allow private and public institutions to continue their operations in the occupied territories. In the words of an Israeli official speaking to Maariv, the changes will allow Israeli institutions “to march with [the guidelines] but not feel them.”

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