Leaders of Jewish settlements in the West Bank have demanded Prime Minister Yair Lapid to call off a meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council on Monday and to withdraw from any agreement with the Europeans, considering the meeting as hostile to them and targeting their existence.
Their calls on Sunday came hours after Lapid’s office said the Israeli PM will lead the first meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council in over a decade.
The office described it as a significant diplomatic achievement that reflects the improvement in Israel's relations with the EU over the past year.
Last Thursday, the European Union announced that it had invited Tel Aviv to the first Association Council meeting on Monday.
The last Association Council meeting was held in 2012 and further gatherings were paused after Israeli authorities objected to the EU’s position regarding West Bank settlements.
On Sunday, Eugene Kontorovich, professor at Northwestern University School of law and director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said “the gains of this agreement will be felt for one night, but its damages are greater.”
Last week, reports said that Lapid is unlikely to sign a cultural agreement with the EU.
Settlers had welcomed the decision, saying the agreement renders Israeli citizens living in the settlements “second class,” as it bans EU funding of cultural activities taking place in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.
They said the agreement also means that Lapid’s government accepts discrimination against settlers, contrary to Benjamin Netanyahu’s governments, which had rejected similar steps since 2017.
The settlers then linked the signing of the cultural agreement to the Horizon 2020 program, which stipulates that EU does not fund scientific activities carried out in the settlements.
“Horizon 2020 was a mistake and mistakes should not be repeated,” said Kontorovich.
He said the cultural agreement is worse than the Horizon program because the Israeli government could compensate the lack of EU funding at the scientific level.
However, he added, when it comes to cultural activities, the new agreement stipulates that the European Union cannot fund any cultural activities in the Old City of Jerusalem or in Katzrin (in the Golan).
“This would create discrimination, which is prohibited by Israeli laws,” Kontorovich stressed.
He added that since the signing of Horizon 2020, Israel made many political achievements, including the passing of laws against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in many US states.
Also, Kontorovich said Washington formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
“The signing of the new agreement would set Israel back diplomatically to at least a decade ago and it will weaken laws that were passed against the BDS movement,” he affirmed.