JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel will ensure that money it receives under a technology-sharing pact with the European Union will not be spent in the West Bank or east Jerusalem, an Israeli official said Wednesday, acceding to a European funding ban on projects in the occupied territories.
Israel and Europe reached a compromise Tuesday that enabled Israel to sign on to a 70 billion euro ($95 billion) research program known as "Horizon 2020."
Israel had feared that new EU guidelines preventing funding of projects or institutions in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and other territories Israel captured in 1967 would make it ineligible for many of the funds granted in the research program, since most universities and research centers have some activities in those territories.
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said Israel and the European Union agreed that Israeli institutions that operated in the occupied territories could apply for funding under the program, but that they would need to ensure that any money they receive be spent only inside Israel proper.
"Every Israeli entity will be able to apply. If it receives the money, it will need to find a mechanism, with the Europeans, that will allow the Europeans to achieve their objective: that their money ... will not go beyond the Green Line," Elkin told Israel Radio, referring to Israel's pre-1967 war frontier with the West Bank.
The European Union, along with much of the international community, considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem illegal and an obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians want those territories, along with the Gaza Strip, for their future state. Elkin said the EU compromise also included an Israeli statement objecting to the European position on settlements.
Elkin added that Israel would compensate institutions that are ineligible for the EU funding because they are located in the occupied territories.
The "Horizon 2020" program enables participants to apply for funds for research and collaboration in areas such as climate change, renewable energy and food safety. The EU has budgeted more than 70 billion euros ($95 billion) for the program, which is to run from 2014 to 2020. Officials estimate that Israel could gain more than 300 million euros ($400 million) from the complicated funding system over the seven-year period.
The EU's top diplomat in Israel, Lars Faaborg Andersen, called the compromise excellent news. "It will allow the EU and Israel to continue their mutually beneficial partnership in science and technology," he said in a statement.
Palestinian official Nabil Shaath praised the Europeans for sticking to their opposition to the settlements. "It's time for the Israelis to understand that all the international community is against settlements," he said.
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz said that despite the last-minute compromise, the spat with the EU indicated that Israel "is now beginning to pay the price of its deeds in the occupied territories."
"The settlement enterprise has turned Israel into an immoral state whose policies are unacceptable to the world of which it seeks to be part," it said in an editorial.