Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni

Months of tense negotiations and fraught phone-calls were behind the smiling Israeli and European faces this week, as leaders signed a multi-billion dollar research cooperation agreement in Jerusalem.

Israeli scientists and hi-tech entrepreneurs will be among the beneficiaries after Israel and the European Union agreed a compromise that allows Israel to join a huge EU research programme called Horizon 2020.

The solution, negotiated late last year, came after an EU edict in July 2013 rendering Israeli entities and activities in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as ineligible for EU grants and prizes.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton discussed the issue, agreeing that Israel would add a clause to the agreement stating that it does not agree with the EU’s definition of occupied territory.

It paved the way for outgoing EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso to shake hands on the $109 billion deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony in Jerusalem.

The signing comes only days after Israeli leaders further antagonised the EU by announcing plans to build another 3,200 homes for Jews in land the EU considers Palestinian.