The European Union still views Hamas as a terrorist organization but supports the group’s inclusion in a Palestinian unity government to advance a “democratic culture” in Palestinian society, the EU’s envoy to Israel said Tuesday.
“Our view of Hamas has not changed – it is a terrorist organization designated as such under EU law,” Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said. “But something must be done to pave the way for the holding of long overdue elections that are necessary for ensuring the development of a democratic culture in a future Palestinian state.”
In January 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, garnering 74 of the 132 seats. The Fatah faction led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won 45 seats. At the time, Israel objected to allowing Hamas compete in the elections.
During a lunch meeting of the EU’s ambassadors with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in Jerusalem, Faaborg-Andersen reiterated the union’s general support for the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal signed last month, which led Israel to suspend the US-brokered peace negotiations. However, he added: “Only a Palestinian government of independent figures committed to nonviolence, accepting previous agreements and Israel’s right to exist, will be acceptable to us.”
On Monday, the foreign ministers of the EU’s 28 member states declared at their monthly meeting in Brussels that Europe was ready to financially support the future Palestinian government, but only if it commits to nonviolence and a two-state solution and accepts previous agreements and obligations, including recognizing Israel’s legitimate right to exist.
“The EU’s engagement with a new Palestinian government will be based on its adherence to these policies and commitments,” the ministers stated. “Reconciliation on these terms is an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two-state solution and a lasting peace.”
While the ministers urged the both sides to “exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any unilateral action which may further undermine peace efforts and the viability of a two-state-solution,” Faaborg-Andersen said it “is encouraging that both parties have, since 29 April, exercised restraint and avoided measures which could further undermine peace efforts.”
Liberman did not respond to Faaborg-Andersen during the public part of the lunch. Earlier in the day, at meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he said that Israel will not negotiate with any government that includes Hamas as long as the group doesn’t accept the conditions of the Middle East Quartet, which include a recognition of Israel.
Liberman also attacked Abbas, saying he was not interested in bringing peace to his people. “What’s important to Abu Mazen [Abbas] is only the legacy he’s leaving behind. As of now, the stalemate in the negotiations with the Palestinians is expected to continue,” he said.