Bloomberg / June 15, 2020
European officials have warned Israel that unilateral annexation of West Bank land may cost it lucrative European Union science research grants, according to Minister of Science and Technology Izhar Shay.
Annexation, scheduled to begin next month, could endanger Israel’s continued participation in the EU’s Horizon grants program if the bloc retaliates by denying Israeli scientists access, Shay said in an interview on Sunday. Israel so far has received more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in Horizon grants since the program began in 2014.
“If we fail to convince even one of them, we are in a problem,” said Shay, who is a member of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. “They have made it clear that it will be challenging to support our participation in the program should the Israeli government make unilateral steps toward annexation.”
The government says it intends to advance President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which endorses Israel extending its sovereignty over 30% of the West Bank and the establishment of a truncated Palestinian state. Yet it’s not clear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will actually move ahead with this widely criticized plan because of the negative implications for the country’s security, economy and diplomatic standing.
Formal extension of Israeli law or sovereignty over territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Mideast war — long just a pipe-dream for the Israeli right — is an outrage for the Palestinians, who see the West Bank as the core of their future state.
While the EU opposes annexation, sanctions on Israel are unlikely because that would require unanimous support of member countries. Some individual states may impose penalties, however, and last week, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travelled to Israel to urge it to scrap its annexation plans.