The European Union announced new binding rules on Tuesday barring any of its 28 member states from forging agreements with Jewish organizations in the Palestinian territories. Under the guidelines, the EU countries are prohibited from issuing grants, scholarships, and prizes or funding to Israeli organizations operating within the West Bank, Golan Heights, or East Jerusalem.
Despite the outpouring of heated sentiments, the EU’s stance against Israel’s policies is not especially new. On December 10, the Foreign Affairs Council’s conclusions expressed the body’s intentions to require EU-Israel contracts to “unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967,” thereby setting the framework for this week’s announcement. Tuesday’s update serves to strengthen the established position of the European states. It is unknown, however, whether the inclusion of the Golan Heights in the official directive advocates Israeli negotiations with the embattled Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.
Netanyahu and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in Jerusalem last month. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)
Israeli officials condemned the bloc’s latest measures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the directive, saying “I will not allow the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in the West Bank, Golan Heights or our united capital, Jerusalem, to be harmed.” Israeli Minister of Finance Yair Lapid emphasized a growing threat to the nation but also recognized the move as a reaction to “a long line of decisions that are leading to Israel’s isolation in the world.”
In response, Israeli officials also threatened to withdraw from Horizon 2020, the EU’s leading innovation project. While the Jewish state continues to benefit from the initiative, withdrawal would hurt the EU as Israel hold a strong position in the research and development sector. “The Israeli government has decided that the financial losses caused by pulling out of the project cannot justify giving in to the EU’s sanctions,” said an unnamed Israeli official cited in The Times of Israel.
While European bureaucrats can spend their own own money how they choose, the new restrictions on contracting will present a significant challenge in the future. The EU’s measures will surely not just hurt Israeli companies, but the Palestinians employed by them as well.