How EU secretly embraced Israeli ministry in East Jerusalem

Catherine Ashton, pictured here with Benjamin Netanyahu, supported Israel’s war industry when she was the EU’s foreign policy chief. (European External Action Service/Flickr)

European Union representatives secretly decided to cooperate with an Israeli ministry based in occupied East Jerusalem, it has been revealed.

The decision is at odds with the EU’s official stance that it does not recognize Israel’s colonization of the territories captured in 1967.

Dating from 2013 but not previously reported, the decision relied on a loophole in an EU paper on cooperation with Israel.

The paper received a hostile response from the Israeli government. It stated that activities undertaken in the settlements Israel is building in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were not eligible for EU funding.

Although the paper was dry and insipid, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, publicly condemned it by saying Israel would “not accept any external edicts on our borders.”

Often referred to as the “guidelines,” the paper was prepared in anticipation of Israel’s involvement in Horizon 2020, the EU’s latest program for scientific research. Amid the controversy, however, a salient fact was overlooked: Israel’s science and technology ministry has its headquarters in East Jerusalem.

That point was raised in a 2013 briefing document drafted for Catherine Ashton, then the EU’s foreign policy chief.

The briefing, obtained under EU freedom of information rules, effectively told Ashton not to worry about this matter as a loophole had been inserted into the guidelines to ensure that they did not cover public authorities.

The location of Israel’s science ministry in East Jerusalem “will not obstruct” cooperation with it, the document stated (see attachment).

Tainted

The science ministry is part of the Israel-Europe R&D Directorate, a body that coordinates Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020. A formal accord setting out the terms of Israel’s involement in the program was signed between the EU and Yaakov Perry, then Israel’s science minister, in 2014.

The loophole means that the entire program – for which almost €80 billion ($85 billion) has been earmarked between 2014 and 2020 – is tainted.

The EU cannot seriously claim to oppose Israel’s gobbling up of East Jerusalem if it has embraced an Israeli ministry that is ensconced in East Jerusalem.

The European Commission, which oversees Horizon 2020, trotted out a typically bureaucratic excuse when asked for an explanation as to why it cooperates with Israel’s science ministry. Pointing to the aforementioned loophole in the guidelines, a Commission spokesperson said that, as a public authority, the science ministry was “exempted” from their scope.

Different from Trump?

To all intents and purposes, the EU’s stance differs little to that of Donald Trump, the newly-elected US president, and the Republican Party.

In the platform on which they fought the recent election, the Republicans undertook to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital if Trump won the presidency. By embracing Israeli institutions in East Jerusalem, the EU is essentially doing the same.

At least, the Republicans have been more transparent about their objectives.

The EU stands accused of saying one thing in public and something quite different behind closed doors.

During her five years as foreign policy chief, Ashton issued a number of statements against how Israel was tightening its grip on East Jerusalem. Her objection to the demolition of Shepherd’s Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the city, for example, was covered extensively by the Israeli press.

Her willingness to approve an accord with the science ministry – which is located near Sheikh Jarrah – indicates that her concern was insincere.

Worse, Ashton was hugely accommodating to firms which profited from Israel’s crimes against humanity.

Towards the end of 2013, she negotiated a deal with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister at the time. The deal enabled Israeli weapons producers to receive grants under the Horizon 2020 program.

As a result of that deal, the makers of drones and surveillance equipment tried out on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank are currently being subsidized by the EU. Stop the Wall, a Palestinian campaign group, has documented how a major EU scheme nominally concerned with airport security may be utilizing technology that has been tested in settlements built by Israel in violation of international law.

Israel is treated as equal to the EU’s own member countries in the research program.

That Israel’s arms industry has been adept at soaking up subsidies is especially alarming given that there is a concerted push within the EU’s institutions to reserve part of a future research program for developing new weapons.

The only positive thing that can be said about that push is that it might usher in a modicum of honesty. Until now, the EU’s representatives have insisted that they only allow funding for civilian research.

That claim has become increasingly implausible as Israel’s war profiteers grab every grant they can get their bloodstained hands on.

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This shameless behavior by the EU is not surprising, though the article is inaccurate in attributing it to the Republicans and Trump's election. In 2008, candidate Obama addressed AIPAC and promised 'Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel'. Even W. had refrained from such a promise. This needs to be corrected in this otherwise informative article.

David Cronin's picture

Thanks for your comment. I didn’t claim that Trump was the first American politician to make a commitment that Jerusalem should be “given” to Israel. I just wrote that the EU’s policy was, in effect, similar to that of Trump. 

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of their role in a terrible event years ago. Israel uses that guilt to pressurize EU into giving in to their demands. Shame on them all for helping Israel continue the occupation, annexation of lands, and the slow genocide of the Palestinian people. The US is no better, they keep pretending that they condemn the illegal settlements, yet promptly send the aggressor billions in dollars, and shiny weapons, to kill innocent men, women and children. What chance do the Palestinians have when these western nations protect their occupier?

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David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013). His earlier book is Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011).