JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized state participation in the European Union's fifth Research and Technological Development framework during a meeting with an interministerial committee including representatives from the ministries of Industry and Trade, Finance and Science and the Council of Higher Education.

All members of the committee endorsed participation except Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman, who said the $160 million participation fee for the four-year program did not provide sufficient economic benefit to the country.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade presented data showing that many of the approximately 40,000 joint ventures, with funding available from the framework totaling about $15 billion, are suited to Israeli technological sectors; about 9,000 joint ventures involve Israeli partners.

Industry and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky welcomed Netanyahu's decision, saying it would increase Israel's access to high-tech joint ventures in Europe and might help Israeli firms increase exports.

Some industry representatives are not convinced.

“The European Union [EU] is taking Israel on inferior terms that, if I were on the Israeli negotiating team, I never would have agreed to,“ said Zohar Zisapel, chairman of the Association of Electronics Industries.

“Israel is excluded from much of the information and contacts and must have two different European partners to participate, while EU members need only one,“ he pointed out. - Rachelle H. B. Fishman