US led the way in banning science grants for Israel's outlawed bodies

September 18, 2013
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items on the response to the EC guidelines on funding ‘Israeli’ bodies outside Israel proper:
1) Jewish Forward: Israel’s Illogical Grudge Against the European Union; August 2013.
2) American Prospect: Netanyahu versus the EU, July 2013;
3) Al Jazeera: US urges EU to postpone Israel settlement ban , Seeptember 2013.
4) JPost: US declines to issue rebuke of EU settlement regulation, July 2013;

A London bus powered by fuel cell technology. There were many scientific innovators on the route to this technology, but Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers found “a novel way to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen: making the technology viable.

“Our approach is the first of its kind. We have found a way to trap light in ultrathin films of iron oxide that are 5,000 thinner than an office paper. This enables achieving high solar energy conversion efficiency and low materials and production costs.” Technion Focus, Rust to Riches, February 2o13

Israel’s Illogical Grudge Against the European Union

Cutting Off Scientific Cooperation Simply Doesn’t Make Sense

By Leonard Fein, Jewish Forward
August 23, 2013.

A mystery: At first blush, Israel’s irritation with the European Union is perfectly understandable. The EU has informed Israel that it must explicitly state that any EU-Israel partnership agreements are not applicable to the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem. The new guidelines restrict any scientific collaboration, investment or the awarding of grants to institutions with direct or indirect ties with settlements in the three named areas. That is the sharpest practical rebuke to its settlement program that has been levied against Israel.

Practical? Well, for example, Israel is the only non-EU country invited to join in Horizon2020, a seven-year EU research and development project. Its participation would cost Israel some 600 million Euros — and would return to Israel about 900 million Euros. But Israel’s stated umbrage at the EU guidelines suggests that it may refuse to enter into any agreement if that agreement incorporates the guidelines. As important, according to Ruth Arnon, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences, “Giving up on Israel’s participation in the program would be an irreversible step that would do significant damage to Israeli universities and industry.”

One measure of the importance of the relationship between Israel and the EU is that Israel receives more research grants per capita from the EU than any other country. Ah, you are thinking, that is because Israel is so much smaller than the EU countries; per capita is therefore the wrong way to count. But: Israel’s population is about 8 million — while some EU members are much smaller. Cyprus is a shade over 1 million. Croatia logs in at 4.5 million, Estonia at 1.3 million. Bulgaria, at 7.6 million, is only a tad smaller; Denmark stands at 5.6 million, Finland at 5.3 million, Ireland at 4.5 million, Latvia at 2.3, Lithuania at 0.3, Luxembourg at 0.5, Malta at 0.4 and Slovakia at 5.4. The EU has 28 members; Israel, in terms of population, is larger than 12 of them. We are so accustomed to thinking of Israel as tiny that such figures may well come as a shock.

There is, in fact, a still more interesting footnote to the story, one that renders Israel’s sharp response to the EU a bit mysterious. In 1972, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation was established as the main body promoting scientific cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. The BSF is a major player — some would say the major player — in encouraging scientific cooperation between Israeli and American scientists. It has awarded nearly $500 million to fund 7400 scientists working on 4000 research projects at 375 institutions. It disburses roughly $15 million annually.

And right there on its web page, in the section on eligibility, it says, “According to agreements between the U.S. and Israeli governments, projects sponsored by the Foundation may not be conducted in geographic areas which came under the administration of the Government of Israel after June 5, 1967 and may not relate to subjects primarily pertinent to such areas.”

In other words, the boycotting of the West Bank — of all territory beyond the Green Line, which was the de facto pre-1967 border — has had ample precedent. And it has been accepted almost routinely by Israel itself, notwithstanding a 2011 law that prohibits participation in such boycotts. That law, called the Law Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott, defines a boycott against the State of Israel as deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or body solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage. Violation of the law is a civil (not criminal) offense, but the person who commits such an offense is liable not only for actual but also for punitive damages that are independent of the actual damage, if any, caused.

In response, Americans for Peace Now (of which I am a proud board member) has formally declared that it will boycott products made in settlements, as has its sister organization, Shalom Achshav, in Israel. But there is, of course, a slippery slope problem here: What can we say to those on the Left who move beyond calls for boycott, who endorse disinvestment and sanctions? And what do we say to those on the right, who refuse to treat Jewish West Bank projects — e.g., the city of Ariel — as different in any way from cities within the Green Line? (According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he of no preconditions, “Israel will remain in Ariel forever.”)

Life is, alas, full of slippery slopes. The antidote? Check Google listing for anti-slip shoes. (I just did, and found 5,130,000 entries.) Myself, I do not call for a boycott of Ariel; like many in Israel’s cultural community, I just won’t go there.

Contact Leonard Fein at

Logo of the European Competitiveness and Innovation programme. Israel was the first neighbourhood country to join the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) under which the European Commission promotes innovation, entrepreneurship and growth of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Netanyahu versus the EU

EU sanctions against Israeli settlements are a warning from friends that their patience has run out.

By Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect
July 18, 2013

“This is the chronicle of a crisis foretold years in advance,” said the Israeli ex-ambassador to Germany, in that petulant tone of a diplomat working very hard not to sound infuriated. Shimon Stein was trying to explain new European Union sanctions against Israeli settlements. Neither journalists nor politicians should sound so shocked by the EU move, he lectured the anchor of state radio’s morning news program. He was right, but he was trying to outshout a hurricane of public anger and disbelief. The anchor herself had begun the show with a riff of indignant surprise that the EU considered her Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem to be a settlement.

Of course, the EU position has consistently been that the country called Israel is defined by its pre-1967 borders, or Green Line—and that anything built beyond those borders is not part of Israel. The sanctions are designed to give more teeth to that position. Under new budget guidelines, EU bodies must make sure not to fund any Israeli activities in occupied territory. Any future agreements between the European Union and Israel must explicitly state that they apply only within the pre-’67 lines. Let’s be clear: This is not an economic boycott of Israel, nor a declaration that Israel is an apartheid state. Rather, the EU is drawing the distinction between legitimate Israel and illegitimate settlements with a thick marker. In the sanctions debate, the Europeans are taking a moderate stance: pro-Israel, anti-occupation.

Such subtleties do not reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the rightists who dominate his government, or West Bank settlers. The new guidelines will be issued officially tomorrow, but the daily Ha’aretz got the document and published the news on Tuesday. The hurricane struck immediately. Netanyahu held a panicked meeting with top ministers and officials, and emerged to tell the media, “We will not accept any outside diktat about our borders.” Economics Minister Naftali Bennett described the European measures as “an economic terror attack.” (Bennett, leader of a pro-settlement party and a proponent of partial annexation of the West Bank, had said on national radio just a week before that in meetings around the globe, he has found that the world is interested only in “prices, economics, industry and growth”—not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.) The head of a regional council of settlements—the rough equivalent of a county government, but one in which settlers are represented and Palestinians are not—denounced the EU’s “blatant and unprecedented intervention in the affairs of an independent and democratic state.” Columnist Nadav Haetzni, striking a common theme on the right, said Europe was again expressing the “wholesale hatred” of Jews that it had shown “from the Middle Ages until the Holocaust.”

In reality, the new guidelines are significant precisely because of the otherwise warm ties between Israel and the EU—indeed, by some descriptions, uniquely close ties for a non-European country. The European Union has had free-trade agreements with Israel since 1975, and is Israel’s largest trading partner. Grants and investments by EU bodies and by member-states have become an essential source of funding for technological development and for research projects ranging from the hard sciences to ancient history. Israel is expecting to be a partner in the EU’s next massive seven-year research and development program, Horizon 2020, as it has in previous programs.

But the Horizon 2020 agreement has not yet been signed. Under the new guidelines, the accord will have to specify that it applies only to sovereign Israel, within the pre-1967 lines. It’s not yet clear whether the new EU policy will disqualify only Israeli research projects that themselves take place in occupied territory—or any project based in a university that is otherwise involved in research beyond the Green Line. In the later case, for instance, Tel Aviv University would either have to pull out of an archaeological dig at the City of David site in East Jerusalem or forfeit all EU grants. To add to the uncertainty, EU member-states aren’t obligated to follow the guidelines, but some are expected to do so. The principle is simple: Intense European cooperation will continue, as long as it’s with Israel, not with the realm of the settlements.

The fact that Netanyahu and other top officials were taken by surprise makes even less sense than Bennett’s accusation of “economic terror.” As declassified documents show, the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser warned that the world would regard settlements as illegal even before the government approved the first one in the West Bank in 1967. The justice minister at the time warned that keeping the West Bank permanently, without giving Israeli citizenship to Palestinian residents, would be seen internationally as colonialism.

In 1986, when Industry Minister Ariel Sharon was building industrial parks in occupied territory, a diplomat at what was then the European Community chancery in Tel Aviv told me that the EC-Israel free-trade pact clearly applied “only to goods made in Israel,” not to products from the West Bank. Back then, though, the EC hadn’t started checking where imports marked “Made in Israel” were produced. Eventually, slowly, politely, European patience wore thin. In 2005, under EU pressure, Israel signed an agreement requiring it to label exports with the postal (zip) code of where they were produced. European customs officials were given a list of postal codes for occupied territory. Last year, the EU made the list public. In May, the EU postponed an expected decision to require products from settlements to be labeled as such explicitly. The delay reportedly came at Washington’s request, to allow Secretary of State John Kerry time to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The new restrictions on funding fit the same trend of rising European frustration—and the same effort by Israel’s friends to aim economic sanctions only at settlements. Europe is still giving Israel a chance to reach a two-state agreement.

Netanyahu, Bennett, and others on the right can proclaim that the Green Line belongs to the past. But if the government refuses to join Horizon 2020, it will starve the research and development that powers the Israeli economy. Netanyahu can tell the public that he won’t accept “diktats.” The business community, especially the high-tech sector, will be harder to convince. The crisis long foretold has arrived.

US urges EU to postpone Israel settlement ban

EU imposed ban in July on giving aid to Israeli organisations in illegal settlements in occupied West Bank.

By Al Jazeera
September 08, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the European Union to postpone a planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories, a US official said.

Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers on Saturday [September 7th] at which he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.

The EU imposed restrictions in July, citing its frustration over the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.

A senior US State Department official told reporters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius that Kerry called on the Europeans to consider postponing the implementation of EU guidelines on aid.

“There was strong support for his efforts and an openness to considering his requests,” the unnamed State Department official said.

‘Commitment to talks’

After meeting Arab League officials in Paris on Sunday, Kerry said that Israel and the Palestinians remained determined to push forward with peace talks.

“Despite tough decisions that have to be made and despite pressure that exists on both sides… both the Palestinians and Israelis have remained steadfast in their committment to continuing the talks,” Kerry said.

Ahead of talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London later on Sunday, Kerry also said he planned to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “shortly” to discuss peace efforts.

Asked about her response to Kerry’s comments about the aid guidelines, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters the guidelines were simply “putting down on paper what is currently the EU position”.

Ashton announced, however, that the EU would send a team, headed by a senior EU diplomat, to Israel on Monday to make sure the implementation of the new guidelines was done sensitively.

“We of course want to continue having a strong relationship with Israel,” she said.

The EU team would talk to the Israelis about implementation of the new guidelines but not about renegotiating them, an EU source said.

The EU guidelines render Israeli entities operating in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.

They angered Israel’s rightist government, which accused the Europeans of harming Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and responded by announcing curbs on EU aid projects for thousands of West Bank Palestinians.

Palestinians praised the guidelines as a concrete step against illegal settlement construction, which they fear will deny them a viable state.

Jewish settler leaders say the aid they receive from Europe is minimal.

But many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.

Israeli-Palestinian peace has been Kerry’s main foreign policy initiative since becoming secretary of state on February 1.

The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.

US declines to issue rebuke of EU settlement regulations

State Department refuses to criticize EU for new regulations barring cooperation with Israeli entities beyond Green Line.

By Michael Wilner, JPost
July 18, 2013

WASHINGTON – The State Department declined to issue a rebuke of the European Union for its new regulations barring member nations from cooperating with Israeli organizations and businesses operating in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The US instead reinforced its position on settlement building in the territories.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”

An expert at the Brookings Institution suggested in an interview that, given the nature of exchanges between the US and the EU, it was likely the Obama administration was given notice of the policy shift.

B’nai B’rith International expressed “outrage” in a statement to journalists.

“These guidelines clearly display the longstanding EU double standard and obsession with Israel to the point of outright discrimination,” president Allan J. Jacobs said.

“Syria’s civil war and Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons do not get the same attention as Israel.”

The American Jewish Committee issued a similar rebuke.

“The key to achieving a two-state solution – which, again, we wholeheartedly support – is by encouraging direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, not taking steps now to penalize one party, in this case Israel, while emboldening the other,” said David Harris, executive director of the AJC.

United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation

According to the agreement between the U.S. and Israeli governments, projects sponsored by the Foundation may not be conducted in geographic areas which came under the administration of the Government of Israel after June 5, 1967 and may not relate to subjects primarily pertinent to such areas. Furthermore, the BSF reserves the right to reject applications involving, directly or indirectly, the Arab-Israeli conflict, if in its sole discretion it deems such applications not consistent with the mission of the Foundation. In addition, any application that is related to any aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be discussed with the BSF staff before submission.

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