top of page

ט' טבת תשפ"ג - 2.1.2023

The position of the Professors for a Strong Israel's on the controversy pertaining to the Israel Prize

General: The European Union's guidelines, as they phrased at present, pose a threat to Israel, apart from the issue of Israeli researchers and institutions, and should not be accepted on four counts:

  1. The cultural aspect: Basic science is one of the few common denominators to all cultures since it is not dependent on any cultural, local or political context.  For the sake of universalism, science should never be used as a means to impose any specific policy. 

  2. The moral aspect:  Anyone accepting the terms explicated in these guidelines is, in fact, an accomplice to an act of unethical discrimination.

  3. The legal aspect: These guidelines are ultimately supposed to replace the current international law, which is on our side for now.  Hence, this document is dangerous as far as we are concerned.

  4. The practical aspect: Not participating in various partnership programs is no calamity for Israeli science.  Any damage is balanced out by the advantages.

The cultural aspect

Basic science, unlike technology (its "legitimate offspring"), is a component of human culture at large, being a reflection of homo sapiens' aspiration to understand Nature – its physical, biological and psychological components.  Nature is one and the same to all, and the desire to explore it is common to all mankind.  Thus, science is not contingent upon one culture or other.  Even during the Cold War, there was disinterested collaboration between scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain.  However, the said guidelines link science and political power.  Unlike in the past, when grants were sometimes denied on a whim by one clerk or other, these guidelines explicitly make use of research funds as a tool to impose policy.  This blatantly goes to undermine global cultural collaboration, and in no way must we be a part of it. 

Instead of complying with this document of guidelines, we must call out for science to be excluded from any political dispute.  This should be everyone's position, not only Israel's. 

The moral aspect

Anyone who chooses to sign a document that discriminates between students in Ariel University and other students (Palestinians do get to enjoy EU funds), or discriminates between Israelis living in different geographical areas where Israeli law applies (Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, for example) is, in fact, supporting acts of discrimination and, in turn, becomes an accomplice to unethical conduct.

The legal aspect

Prof. Avi Bell, an expert on international law, has analyzed the guideline document published by the European Union.  Following is a summary of his conclusions:

The new demands made by the European Union are as follows:

  1. Legal definitions: To date, no international document has been issued that deals with the legal status of Judea & Samaria, nor with that of east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights (the last two being under Israeli sovereignty) under International Law.  Until now, the term "international law" was never mentioned; however, discrimination was exercised de facto.  From now on, the EU plans on legally formalizing its actions.

  2. The document raises new demands and sets new rules with regards to economic activity, direct or indirect, in areas over the 1967 lines, including Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.  It seems that international law now prohibits activities beyond settlement in the said areas.  Such a demand was never made in the past, and this appears to be an attempt to create a new legal reality, one which would be even more detrimental for the future of the State of Israel.

  3. In contrast, the boycott imposed by GIF (The German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research) and the BSF (United States – Israel Binational Science Foundation) did not even disqualify businesses and institutions that have offices over the Green Line.

  4. The document invalidates the legal status of areas under Israeli sovereignty.  This is a precedential step that might lead to similar action with respect to the 1947 lines. 

  5. Should Israel accept these new formulations, these will ultimately be expanded to include more activities.  For instance, a plane taking off from Ben-Gurion International airport will not be allowed to cross the Green Line, as per the same precedent mentioned above.

  6. Anyone requesting a grant will be required to submit an affidavit regarding activities or presence over the 1967 lines, a demand that is made of no other member state.  Consequently, the document creates many possibilities for rejection.

  7. There will ultimately be a black list of factories and institutions that operate inside the Green Line, but that also happen to engage in economic activity or research in areas like the Golan Heights or the united Jerusalem. 

  8. The document can create a dangerous precedence: A black list of economic activity over the Green Line, for instance – mortgage transactions in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo. 


It follows then that since the document does not explicitly state that it does not plan on changing what has been accepted as international law until now, what this ultimately means is that an attempt is being made to change international law by creating a precedent that runs counter to the existing law. 

What is the danger?

This is not just about whether the Chemistry department in Ariel University will be receiving a grant or not.  Rather, this opens up a new front of attack, presenting new grounds for legal suits against any entity from anywhere in the world which may have any ties or engage in any activities over the Green Line (this may include, for example: high-power lines; the light rail; water and sewage plants; transportation, communication and aviation plants etc.).  Furthermore, the document aims to invalidate Israeli Law in the Golan Heights and in the united Jerusalem, and sets the ground for severing all economic ties between Israel and the European Union in future. The Israeli Electric Corporation, to take but one example, will be disqualified from any transaction with any European body. 

The Palestinians are already giving the document numerous interpretations along these lines.  This is the beginning of a new trend that will be hard to stop in future, as it will be based on legal terminology. 

What we see here is a conscious attempt, carried out with full intent, to reshape international law.  Should this precedent be accepted and international law given new status, it would mean the end of any economic ties with any individual or entity engaging in economic activities over the Green Line, even if such individual or entity is situated in Tel Aviv. 

Another example:  A French company that is partner to the construction of the light rail in Jerusalem was sued in a French court, where it was determined that international law does not prohibit any form of business activity, even if conducted in occupied territories.  It is precisely this law that the EU is trying to change, rendering any business activity conducted by the French company illegal. 

The Palestinians, along with EU officials, have already exposed what the future holds: law suits aimed at European companies that operate in the united Jerusalem or in Judea & Samaria.  The said document issued by the European Union mention boycotts as the next step.  On every possible stage, Mahmud Abbas has said time and time again that any economic activity in Judea & Samaria is illegal according to international law, and quotes from this 2020 document to support his statements.  If international companies do not hear our counter-narrative, they will pack up and leave for fear of being subject to legal suits in their own countries.  This would be a vital blow to Israeli commerce. 

At this point, international law is still on our side, which is rather rare.  However, the European Union is trying to turn the law against us.  If we keep silent, we will find ourselves having to face an unrestrained expansion of the boycott in future, on the grounds of the new international law.  Previous agreements with the European Union prevented imposing any limitations or restraints on activity over the Green Line.

The operational aspect

If Israel does not take part in the program, would it be such a huge blow to Israeli science?

The president of the Israel Academy of Sciences sent out a letter to the prime minister in which she insisted that the European Union's document be signed without any terms.  A delegation comprised of the heads of universities showed up in the Foreign Ministry with similar demands. 

The main claim put forward in support of accepting the EU's terms: The previous project yielded a 150% ROI to Israeli scientists.  Israeli scientists view the ties with the EU as crucial.  If the EU does not concede its terms and Israel does not participate in the EU's eighth program, this would be catastrophic for Israeli science.

Is it really that bad?

Despite the media blitz and the extensive lobbying done by academics and the Israel Academy of Sciences, reality tells a different story.

  1. Some statistics:

  1. During the course of the seventh program, Israel contributed to the partnership 537 million Euros, and the Israeli scientists came home with 809 million Euros. 

  2. Partnership programs which include Israeli scientists comprise 30% of all research activity in Europe.

  3. Approximately 90% of the money is invested in the natural sciences and in technology.

  4. Approximately 50% of the EU's research budget is allocated to individualized programs that advocate academic freedom and other prioritized topics, and the other half of the budget goes to fund research proposals that focus on the practical application of science. 

  5. The Israel Science Foundation, which is Israel's main funding body of academic activity, operated on a budget of 361 million shekels in 2012, which is the equivalent of 500 million Euros over seven years. 


  1. The advantages of the partnership with the EU:

  1. A 50% increase in research activity.

  2. Fostering cultural and scientific ties with EU scientists.

  3. Obtaining new knowledge and technology.

  4. Some studies would hardly be possible without some of these partnerships.

  5. Universities have enjoyed a 50% increase in their income from overhead, a fact which has greatly eased off some of the pressure felt by heads of universities as far as balancing the books is concerned. 



  1. Although it is very likely that during the course of the eighth program, as was previously the case, Israeli scientists will receive a similar ROI (150%), nothing is certain as yet, and no one can vouch for the fact that the European review mechanism will not be affected by the waves of anti-Semitism.

  2. Money is not everything: Science is not a production line, and the relationship between the amount of the funding and the scientific output is not necessarily a linear one.  As far as individual scientists are concerned, the rule of thumb is often "more money means less thought."

  3. A third of the EU's overall science budget is invested in partnership programs, in which Israeli scientists are involved.  We are talking of a sum amounting to close to 20 billion Euros, twenty-five times the sum allocated to labs in Israel.  This means that an extensive amount of knowledge is contributed to EU countries, the weaker among them included, as well as any IP rights that these projects may yield.  It follows then, that Israeli scientists are responsible for disseminating free knowledge.  (Something similar happened in the twentieth century, when Israeli agriculturists disseminated their achievements with great enthusiasm without protecting their IP rights.)  Another implication of the above:  It would be logical to assume that the EU will be interested in such gifts in future as well.  In other words, they are the interested party in this partnership no less than we are.  In fact, they are on the receiving end, more than they are on the giving end. 

  4. In exchange for the 50% addition, even the fruits of the principal (600 million Euros) become the property of strangers, instead of belonging to the Israeli tax payer who is ultimately responsible for the initial investment

The disadvantages of the partnership

Assuming that the government of Israel commits to transferring the entirety of the sum intended for the EU (600 million Euros) to research and development in Israel instead, such action would present a number of important advantages, which also highlight the drawbacks of the European program. 

  1. The fact that these funds are managed by the EU goes to serve the needs of the EU, which are not compatible with those of Israeli science.  In fact, this is an absurd situation, in which the investor hands over the management of his assets to a foreign body that manages these funds keeping its own interests in mind, which are not those of the investor's. 

  2. The EU has defined three objectives for the research:

Solving the economic crisis

Solving the problem of unemployment

Raising Europeans' quality of life

The above are not necessarily the goals of Israeli research. 

   3. In many respects, the way in which the funds are managed does not serve the needs of Israel:

  1. 34% of the budget is intended for projects which aim to transform knowledge generated by basic research into a commercial product.  This is harmful for Israel because it means the IP is shared.  Furthermore, Israel is an entrepreneur-society by nature, which means that it has already solved the problem of how to turn knowledge into commercial products.  Israeli entrepreneurs are experts in taking a basic idea and applying it practically using government mechanisms such as technological hubs and programs for applied research operating in the universities.  Since this type of mechanism is not as sophisticated in Europe as it is in Israel, a significant portion of the budget is allocated to items that have nothing to do with the scientific and technological needs of Israel. 

  2. In light of its objectives, the EU's plan places a great emphasis on applied science.  This means that scientists requesting funding, whose focus is basic science, must deviate their scientific activity and research areas they are not interested in.

  3. Israel researches many field that are not included in the EUs calls for proposals and, as such, are not prioritized when it comes to individual research grants.  These may include security-related topics that are researched in universities, or topics that specifically relate to the Middle East. 

  4. Managing funds earmarked for science is a policy tool per excellence.  By transferring the management of such research monies to the EU, Israel is, in fact, conceding its right to implement such policy as the development of the Galilee or Negev. 

  5. A significant part of the budget is allocated to such programs that include a European partner.  This is an imposed partnership, which is hardly needed by many of the Israeli scientists (let the number of prizes awarded to Israelis attest to this fact).  This means that the resources are not utilized as well; IP rights are lost; and more money goes to the weaker countries in Europe.  This leads to lower output per investment as far as Israeli research is concerned. 

  6. It must be noted: Any scientist who has a unique contribution to make, and whose research requires other experts, can do so without a shared budget.  It has always been the case.  People have always partnered up spontaneously, even without dedicated programs forcing them into partnership.  Partnerships that materialize because of specific budget allocation terms, help weak countries.  Israel is not a weak country and the aim of such partnership is only to exploit our high level of science.

  7. The EU gives individual budgets to a limited number of researchers.  These budgets are high and given for a fixed time.  Oftentimes, in such conditions the investment isn't put to such good use.  If the money were to be managed locally, it would be utilized better.  In the framework of the ERC program, a small number of researchers received 1.5 million Euros on average.  If the funds were allotted in a less stringent manner, the output would be far higher.

  8. Besides the limiting policy that clearly undermines Israeli interests – such as limitations placed on environmental and archeological research in Judea & Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – there are more limitations in the pipeline (although these have not yet been put into practice ) such as prohibiting the use of research funds for the purpose of giving out scholarships to research students – something which is considered essential if one wants to nurture students in the field of the natural sciences.

  9. Some of these programs require the employment of foreign researchers, which take the place of Israeli workers. 

  10. It is written in our sources "be respectful of the sons of the poor, for Torah may emerge from them" - a principle the individual research grants program does not take into account at all.  The said program focuses all it's attention on promising young people, or older distinguished persons, and doesn't allow the general public take part in the competition (this is achieved by defining very specific criteria for winning a spot).  This is quite different from the American system which makes sure to decentralize opportunities.  In light of the above, should the Israeli government choose to invest 600 million Euros in R&D in Israel instead, and managing the funds locally, the Israeli taxpayer will enjoy a much higher return on investment from research that would be better suited to Israel's needs.  The said increase will make up for most of the losses. It is true that the universities will miss out on an opportunity to balance out their administrative budget resulting from the difference between the Israeli and European overhead, but the researchers themselves, those for whom the program is really intended, will have better chances of realizing their goals and putting their knowledge to good use.In turn, the public will benefit from a higher GNP, induced by the fact that Israeli knowledge will stay local, rather than being disseminated worldwide.

The conclusion that follows is:

If Israel does not succumb to the EU terms, no calamity will befall Israeli science nor will the damage be very significant.  Partnerships have always formed out of need, and they will continue to form if needed.   

On the other hand, if we do succumb to the terms, this would mean: a. Humiliation.  b.  More opportunity for exerting greater pressure in future.  c.  The possibility of a future boycott.  d.  A fundamental change in the legal status.

The Europeans have greater respect for those who are not afraid to stand up for their future, their existence, their interests and their honor.

Israel has international standing because of its knowledge.  There is no reason to hand it out to our competitors for a penny's worth.  The fact that Israeli science and technology is flourishing is not because of our ties with Europe, nor are we dependent on Europe's good grace.  On the contrary, the Europeans need us and they are the ones who are interested in this partnership.  If Israel stands up for its rights and thinks of its own future, perhaps the Europeans will be wise enough to leave science out of the fighting arena. 


bottom of page