Israel said girding for bids to kick it out of global projects over annexation

Report says government seeking to identify, cajole countries that could potentially push to sideline it from programs like EU’s Horizon 2020

Left to right: EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret, Nili Shalev, ISERD Director General and Aharon Aharon, CEO, Israel Innovation Authority at the Horizon 2020 awards ceremony in Jaffa on June 4, 2019 (Yossi Zamir; GPO)
Left to right: EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret, Nili Shalev, ISERD Director General and Aharon Aharon, CEO, Israel Innovation Authority at the Horizon 2020 awards ceremony in Jaffa on June 4, 2019 (Yossi Zamir; GPO)

Israeli officials are working to put together a plan to deal with the expected economic and cultural fallout from Jerusalem’s apparently imminent move to annex parts of the West Bank, according to a report Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he plans to push forward next month with plans to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, contingent on US approval and the completion of a mapping process for the plan by Israeli-American teams.

Israeli leaders expect that beyond a diplomatic furor, reactions will include stepped up boycotts in academia and other areas, Army Radio reported.

It said Israel has been receiving indications from the international community, through official and unofficial channels, that the country faces exclusion from a variety of major scientific and economic international projects if annexation goes ahead in July as planned.

Senior government officials are deeply concerned, the report said, and are devising a plan to combat such efforts.

The most important project from which the Jewish state could be sidelined is Horizon 2020, a flagship European Union research and innovation program that offered 80 billion euros ($89.4 billion) in funding between 2014 and 2020.

In 2013, the EU threatened to pull Israel out of the program until Israel agreed that the money would not go to projects in West Bank settlements.

In order for Israel to remain part of the mega-project over the coming decade, all EU countries must unanimously agree to its inclusion, according to the report.

“If we are excluded, it will be a serious financial and strategic blow for Israel,” the report cited a senior government official as saying.

EU foreign ministers have warned Israel of “consequences” if it pushes ahead with annexation. However, some countries within the bloc have moved to shield Israel.

Government officials are now mapping out countries to assess whether they could oppose Israel’s continued inclusion in the Horizon project, as well as other attempts to boycott Israel and sideline it from more international projects.

After that stage is completed, the report said, Israeli diplomatic officials will contact countries that are likely to take action against Israel and seek to prevent such steps through direct talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. left, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, center, and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin during a meeting to discuss mapping extension of Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, held in the Ariel settlement, February 24, 2020. (David Azagury/US Embassy Jerusalem)

The annexation plan is to be executed under the auspices of the Trump administration’s peace plan, though the proposal has been strongly rejected by the Palestinians — and though Israel is far less enthusiastic about the parts of the plan that call for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

In recent days, even the Trump administration has appeared to seek to dampen expectations that Washington will quickly green-light the move.

According to a Channel 13 report Monday, citing unnamed American sources, US officials have been exploring precisely if and how Israel intends to proceed with unilateral annexation and came away from the conversations without a definitive answer.

Quoting a senior Israeli source, the TV report also said that the Americans “want to downplay the enthusiasm” for imminent annexation — “to greatly slow the process” — because the administration is preoccupied, among other matters, with nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis last week, on top of the COVID-19 crisis and accompanying economic fallout.

The coalition deal underlying Israel’s new unity government allows it to initiate moves starting July 1 to implement Trump’s controversial plan, despite likely opposition from the government’s Blue and White party.

The plan, rejected by the Palestinians, gives the green light from Washington for Israel to annex Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley, a swath of land running along the border with Jordan. Palestinians say the US plan ends prospects for a two-state solution to their decades-long conflict with Israel.

The plan is vehemently opposed by Jordan and the rest of the Arab world, as well as most European countries.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, January 31, 2020. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

A statement expressing “grave concern” over the matter on May 18 was issued in the name of the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell because there was no consensus on it among the EU’s 27 member states. According to several sources familiar with the matter, Austria, Hungary and other countries reasoned that it was not the time for such statements. However, Austria later also warned Israel against annexation.

Meanwhile, several European leaders reportedly sent personal letters to Netanyahu in recent days asking him not to push ahead with the plans.

Jordan’s foreign minister on Thursday night warned the top diplomats of the US and UK against the “unprecedented threat” Israel’s planned annexation posed to the region, his office said.

Earlier this month Amman threatened to review its relationship with Israel if the Jewish state goes ahead with the controversial plans.

Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday that he believed Amman wouldn’t alter the 1994 peace accord, arguing that it was a vital interest for Jordan as well as for Israel.

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