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Stick to Israeli settlement guidelines, ex-European leaders urge EU

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former European officials and heads of state called on the European Union not to relax new guidelines on Israeli settlements.

Fifteen members of the European Eminent Persons Group sent a letter Monday to EU foreign ministers urging them to keep in place the guidelines, which make Israeli entities and activities in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights ineligible for EU grants and prizes.

Last week, the EU sent to Israel a diplomatic team to talk to Israeli officials about implementing the guidelines.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the European Union to postpone their implementation, saying it would help facilitate the restarted peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The letter specifically references the Horizon 2020 program to promote scientific research and development. Israel is the only non-European country that has been asked to join the prestigious program and talks on Israel’s signing already are underway.

“With great concern we have taken note of recent calls to delay, modify or even suspend the European Commission guidelines on funding of Israeli entities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” the letter read. “We urge you to uphold this commitment by supporting the guidelines and their full application by EU institutions, notably in regard to the ongoing negotiations about Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020.”

The letter suggests that softening the guidelines would “undermine the Palestinians’ trust in the negotiation process and their ability to continue the talks.”

In response to the letter, the European Jewish Congress called the guidelines “discriminatory” and said the letter “is a danger to peace, as it hands one side a political victory without having to compromise and deepens the Palestinian feeling that they can gain more outside of negotiations than in them.”

The European Union has argued that the guidelines put into writing a long-standing policy.

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