Israel will not sign EU agreements with settlement guidelines

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel reportedly will not sign any new agreements with the European Union that fall under the body’s new guidelines concerning the occupied territories, without changes in the wording.

The decision to ask the EU to reword, or “clarify,” the guidelines was made Thursday at a meeting at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv called by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and attended by government ministers, Haaretz reported.

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The European Commission last month announced new guidelines making Israeli entities and activities in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights ineligible for EU grants and prizes.

The guidelines are a follow-up to a decision made by the foreign ministers of EU member states at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Dec. 10 in which they said that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the European Union must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

Netanyahu will speak to Ashton in order to inform her of the results of the meeting, according to Haaretz. Israeli officials are set to meet next week with EU representatives over one of the agreement, the Horizon 2020 program to promote scientific research and development. Israel is the only non-European country that has been asked to join the prestigious program.

Israel will condition the signing of the agreement and future agreements on changes in the wording of the guidelines.

Among the changes that will be requested, according to Haaretz, are: to drop the demand that Israeli groups be required to submit a written declaration to the EU foundations that they have no direct or indirect connections with groups in the territories.; to remove the stipulation that an indirect connection to the settlements makes Israeli groups ineligible for EU grants and loans; and to drop the territorial clause in the agreement, which states that Israel recognizes that it is not sovereign beyond the 1967 lines and that the agreement does not apply to those areas.

The European Union has said it will not cancel, modify or delay the implementation of the guidelines published last month. They are set to take effect in January 2014.

The EU also plans to introduce special labeling for products made in the settlements by the end of this year.