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Israel Suddenly Reverses Decision to Join EU Arts Program

Miri Regev, Israel’s culture and sports minister, is pulling her support from a proposal to join Creative Europe, a European Union program that supports artists and various cultural initiatives in EU-member countries as well as non-EU-member countries.

Regev publicly objected to the program after an Haaretz article written by Barak Ravid reported that the minister’s name was included on the proposal even though it excluded funding for cultural programming in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Golan Heights. The EU does not recognize the settlements as part of Israel.

A statement issued by Regev states, “The culture minister supports international cooperation in the field of culture. However, if the agreement with the European Union that the foreign ministry is proposing includes a boycott of Judea and Samaria—minister Regev will oppose it and the culture ministry won’t be a party to this agreement” (Judea and Samaria are West Bank settlements). Had Israel joined Creative Europe, they would have, in effect, recognized this European boycott of contentious territories.

Israel’s membership to Creative Europe would have cost about $1.7 million; however, had they joined, nearly $1.6 billion in grant moneys from the EU would have been available to Israeli institutions and artists to apply for. The funds can be used for joint ventures between institutions dedicated to visual art; joint theater or dance company projects; film and television projects; and the translation of works from Hebrew to European languages, among other things. The EU approached Israel about the opportunity to join back in 2013 and Israel informed the EU that they would like to join in 2014. Currently, ten non-EU countries belong to Creative Europe.