A European Union court Wednesday ordered the removal of Hamas from the European Union's list of terrorist organizations, based on a procedural technicality, a ruling that provoked anger from Israel as well as satisfaction from the militant Palestinian movement.
A statement from the General Court of the European Union said it was annulling the “measures maintaining Hamas on the European list of terrorist organizations.” However, the court said assets seized from Hamas would continue to be frozen pending an appeal.
The court ruling coincided with another blow to Israeli policy. The Palestinian leadership, via allied Jordan, submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council that would call for a Palestinian state and force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank within two years.
Israeli officials have been pressuring the United States to wield its veto power at the Security Council should the draft be brought up for a vote. Palestinian leaders have vowed to proceed with the showdown, encouraged by recent votes in several European states in support of a deadline for Palestinian statehood unless idle peace talks come to fruition.
It was unclear when the draft might come up for a vote, but the United States was expected to use its veto power to block it.
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry recently held separate discussions with Israeli and Palestinian officials in efforts to stave off a crisis over the resolution.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki told Palestinian radio Wednesday that no agreement was reached.
According to Malki, the draft is based on a French proposal and will address “all the problems that existed over the past 20 years of negotiations.”
Israel firmly rejects the move. After meeting with Kerry in Rome on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian and European attempts to force conditions on Israel “will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel.”
Also Wednesday, the European Parliament passed a resolution to support Palestinian statehood “in principle.” Reiterating its support for the two-state solution, the resolution called for the advance of peace talks.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the various international efforts are an “organized campaign designed to impose a de facto situation on Israel” and a “political attack.”
He said Israel must take diplomatic action of its own.
“The absence of an Israeli initiative deteriorates our position in the international arena, harms our relationships with our friends in the West. ... Standing in place endangers Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu made clear his pique over the court ruling on Hamas at a meeting with U.S. Sen.-elect Joni Ernst of Iowa on Wednesday.
“Today we witnessed staggering examples of European hypocrisy,” he said, referring to the court decision and a scheduled conference of parties to the Geneva Convention convened at Palestinian request.
“The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith,” Netanyahu said, calling Hamas a “murderous terrorist organization.”
“In Geneva, they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes, while in Luxembourg the European court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations. ... It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil 6 million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing,” Netanyahu said.
Israeli media reported that Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the European Union ambassador to Israel, clarified that Europe plans to find the appropriate legal evidence needed to put Hamas back on the list and that its position on Hamas remains unchanged.
In a post on Facebook, Hamas official Mousa abu Marzouk said the decision corrects a “historic injustice” to Hamas as a national liberation movement exercising “legitimate resistance.” He welcomed the decision as a “real victory for the justice of our cause” and proof “the occupation can no longer ... continue to deceive the world.”
Sobelman is a special correspondent. Staff writer Williams reported from Los Angeles. Special correspondent Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.