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…[I]n the process and through a very large budget, the EU built alliances with a number of highly politicized NGOs. Through frameworks such as Partnership for Peace and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and via delegation offices in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Amman, the EU began bankrolling dozens of NGOs, including the Israeli B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Adalah and the hard-core Palestinian political NGO, Applied Research in Jerusalem, which receives close to €1 million annually. This NGO funding was and still is decided in great secrecy and without external oversight.
Engagement with a narrow group of political NGOs became a substitute for direct EU interaction with Middle Eastern governments and the wider political spectrum. Thus, the EU-NGO relationship took the form of policy outsourcing or subcontracting, particularly as EU experts and resources in this realm are very limited compared to major countries like the US, UK, France and Germany.
An examination of official EU documents and policies clearly reflect NGO influence on the most sensitive and complex issues, including Jerusalem, the status of Israel’s Arab minorities, construction in Area C of the West Bank, “settler violence” and criticism of Israeli responses to terror attacks.
The exaggerated role of political NGOs in EU policy-making is also reflected in measures such as product labeling, seen by many in Israel as a manifestation of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). These measures are designed to force Israel to withdraw from the post-1967 territories, including the Golan. Indeed, a number of NGOs funded by the EU are among the leaders of the BDS movement, and press intently for product labeling…while EU officials proclaim their opposition to BDS, the cooperation with and funding for NGOs promoting BDS continues.