21st Mar 2023

MEPs greenlight aid for Palestinian Authority

MEPs in Brussels have adopted a resolution saying that the EU should remain the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian Authority.

However, the resolution also says that it should be on condition that the future Palestinian government lead by the terrorist-listed Hamas renounces violence and recognises the state of Israel

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In a vote on Thursday (2 February) MEPs urged the leaders of Hamas to commit themselves to peaceful negotiations for a two-state solution in cooperation with the so-called 'Quartet', consisting of the EU, UN, US and Russia.

MEPs said the "radicalisation of the political arena in Palestine" reflected "strong grievances against the past Palestinian administration as well as a reaction to difficult living conditions under occupation".

The EU should continue to assist Palestinian economic development and the democratic process and the international community should focus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to prevent further radicalisation, the resolution says.

The newly-elect Hamas leaders have said that they want to end violence with Israel, but have ruled out recognising the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock warned, however, that the resolution would just compound the problem.

"Hamas is a terrorist organisation and is committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas is not committed to democracy and our concept of human rights but to a theocracy under Sharia law," he said.

"We would be showing that we have learned absolutely nothing if we sent so much as a penny to a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas."

Opting for change

The Palestinian authority's representative to the EU, Leila Shahid, said Wednesday (1 February) that the West would be sending a wrong signal if it refuses to recognize a Hamas-lead Palestinian government.

"If you reject Hamas, it would be perceived in the region as rejection of democratic principles," Ms Shahid told a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.

"The EU must not allow the result of the election to conceal the fantastic performance that the election was. It was transparent and in respect of pluralism, and that in a society where pluralism has been condemned," she said.

Ms Shahid explained that the Islamist movement Hamas' "earthquake-like" victory was the result of the deep desire by Palestinians to switch from a party that had not held a meeting in 16 years and was suffering from "political sclerosis", rather than a wish for a stricter Islamist society.

"If you create unity with Hamas - not against - this can be positive. The EU can impose conditionality in such a relationship", said Ms Shahid.

Protests in Gaza

Thursday's vote in Brussels vote came amidst new reports of protests on the Gaza strip in the Palestine territories about cartoons – now re-printed in several European newspapers - of the prophet Muhammad.

Some twenty armed Palestinian gunmen surrounded the EU office in Gaza and urged European governments to apologize for the cartoons.

They threatened to blow up the office if an apology is not presented within 48 hours.

A spokesperson for the commission told a press conference in Brussels that security measures had been taken on behalf of the EU in light of the threats against foreigners, but declined to specify.

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