Israel reacted furiously Wednesday to the European Court of Justice’s decision to take Hamas off the EU’s list of terrorist organization, rejecting EU explanations that this was just a “technical” step that will be overturned before it is implemented.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before a meeting with Joni Ernst, the newly elected Republican senator from Iowa, said this was one example of “staggering” European “hypocrisy.”
Hamas, he said, “has committed countless war crimes and countless terror acts. It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil six million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing. But we in Israel, we've learned. We'll continue to defend our people and our state against the forces of terror and tyranny and hypocrisy."
PM Netanyahu meets with Senator Joni Ernst (KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who recently criticized Netanyahu for not taking a diplomatic initiative to rebuff anti-Israel moves internationally, said that to take Hamas off the list for “technical reasons” at a time when terror was on the rise throughout the world, and not only in the Middle East, was a “wrong decision” that sends exactly the wrong message.
Shortly after the angry reactions coming from Jerusalem, the EU's External Action Service (EEAS), essentially the EU’s foreign service, said the EU court's decision earlier in the day was a legal, not a political decision, that will likely be appealed.
The court annulled the bloc's decision on 2003 to keep Hamas on a list of terrorist organizations, but temporarily maintained the measures for a period of three months or until an appeal was registered. The courts said that the evidence provided to place the organization on the list did not meet EU standards, and was based on media and Internet reports.
According to the statement, by the EEAS, which is headed by EU Foreign Policy chief Frederica Mogherini, “This legal ruling is clearly based on procedural grounds and it does not imply any assessment by the Court of the substantive reasons for the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization.”
According to the statement, this is “a legal ruling of a court, not a political decision taken by the EU governments. The EU continues to uphold the Quartet principles,” the statement read.
The Quartet principles ban engagement with Hamas until it forswears terrorism, recognizes Israel, and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
The statement said that the EU institutions were carefully studying the ruling and “will decide on the options open to them. They will, in due course, take appropriate remedial action, including any eventual appeal to the ruling. In case of an appeal the restrictive measures remain in place.”
The statement was released soon after Jerusalem responded angrily to the decision, and after Netanyahu said Israel was “not satisfied” with the explanations of the EU that Hamas's removal is only a technical matter.
Two central EU countries have already been working on a dossier providing the court with the evidence that will satisfy it.
“The burden of proof is on the EU and we expect them to immediately return Hamas to the list where everyone realizes they should be,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization whose charter says that its aim is to destroy Israel. We will continue to fight it with determination and strength so that it will never realize its aims. "
The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying that the UK will work to ensure that Hamas remains on the EU’s terrorist list.
According to the statement, the court’s judgement “is procedural and does not mean the EU and UK have changed their position on Hamas. The effects of the EU Hamas listing, including asset freezes, remain in place. We are studying the detail of the judgment carefully, and will work with partners to ensure that the Hamas listing at the EU is maintained. Hamas’ military wing has been proscribed in the UK since 2001 under separate UK legislation. It is not affected by today’s EU General Court judgment.”
Regardless, the reaction from Israeli MKs and ministers was furious.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that if anyone thinks that sacrificing Israel can save Europe, they are mistaken.
"The corrupt law of the EU court gives license for the shedding of Jewish blood everywhere and demonstrates the loss of a moral path," he said.
"Israel is strong and can defend itself from its enemies, but Europe itself will be the one to suffer from the strengthening of terrorist organizations," he added.
Bennett said that terror which receives a justification in Tel Aviv will quickly spread to London, Paris and Brussels.
Hatnua head Tzipi Livni called the court’s move a “grave mistake,” and said Hamas was an “extreme Islamic religious terrorist organization that must be fought with all force.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said that the European Union "must have lost its mind." Edelstein said that the decision displays "inflexibility, moral distortion and grants a prize to the extremist Islamic terror that is currently plaguing the entire world, including Europe itself."
The Knesset speaker said that he hopes the "injustice" will be remedied quickly.
Labor MK Nachman Shai accused the court of hypocrisy, saying that "the body responsible for justice should know that Hamas does not deserve the benefit of the doubt, even for one minute.
"Terror is terror is terror. In the unending struggle against it, as has been brought to light recently in Australia and Pakistan,any concession is a sign of weakness. Europe must put Hamas back on the terror blacklist immediately," he said.
Likud MK Danny Danon said that "the Europeans must believe that there blood is more sacred than the blood of the Jews which they see as unimportant - that is the only way to explain the EU court's decision to remove Hamas from the terror blacklist," he said.
"In Europe they must have forgotten that Hamas kidnapped three boys and fired thousands of rockets last summer at Israeli citizens," he added.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.