Diplomatic sources told Ynet that Israel and the EU have reached understandings according to which Israel could be part of Horizon 2020, a seven-year, Europe-wide research grant program that starts in 2014, with an estimated budget of 80 billion euros ($107 billion).
According to understandings reached by the EU and Israel, the agreement would include a clause stating that any entity working beyond the green line be able to apply for loans. Israel will clarify its objection to the outline of the settlements ban.
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Earlier Tuesday, direct diplomacy began between ministers Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennett and the European representatives, with the hope of saving the agreement and allowing Israel to join the program.
Israeli participation in the Horizon 2020 had been jeopardized by new EU guidelines unveiled in July effectively barring EU money from being allotted to Israeli research institutes and other entities with operations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said the restrictions were unacceptable. But with the deadline for signing onto the lucrative Horizon 2020 science program less than a week away, the two sides managed to overcome their differences.
A minister involved in the details of the agreement with the EU said "the agreement achieved in the negotiations is much better than the initial one and it should have been signed.
"After all, we preserved the right to back out of the deal at any moment."
According to a diplomatic source, this is a plan of which Israel is the top beneficiary. We can't not be there."
The winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Professor Dan Shechtman, said in an interview with Ynet on Tuesday that "our partnership with the European Union in the present and the future is vital to the sciences in Israel, and we cannot stress its importance enough."
Shechtman is one of the more audible voices supporting the scientific endeavor: "We are part of the European community and we communicate with scientists from all European states. Additionally, there is the economic aspect. Israel invests one billion euro and receives one and a half billion euro. Any businessman offered this deal would jump on the catch."
Shechtman also said that there is no reason to see flexibility on the issue as "defeat." He said, "Under current circumstances, it is worthwhile to sign the agreement, and in the future we will try to receive terms that are more suitable to the position of the Israeli government."
The professor urged, "I do not want to enter a political discussion, but as a scientist I say to the government of Israel: We need this agreement and you should make the best effort to sign it."
Shahar Chai, Reuters contributed to this report
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