The EU has become lax in reiterating the three conditions Hamas has to meet before gaining international legitimacy, a top Foreign Ministry official said Monday, adding that he would not “bet his life” that some in the EU are not looking for a “back-channel” contact with Hamas.

Naor Gilon, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Western Europe, made his comments at a symposium in Jerusalem sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Gilon’s words come just days after Hamas officials said they wanted direct contact with the US administration, and a couple of weeks after Germany, at Israel’s prodding, denied a visa to a Hamas legislator who was invited to address an academic conference in Germany.

Gilon said that a careful study of EU documents on the Middle East over the last year show that the conditions for engagement with Hamas – disavowing terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting previous agreements – rarely appear.

However, at an earlier press briefing on Monday, EU representative Christian Berger said there had been no change in the EU’s position regarding engagement with Hamas. Berger said there was another condition as well, and that was Hamas’s acceptance of the “principle of tolerance” and “rule of law.”

Berger, asked whether the current financial problems plaguing the EU could impact the amount of aid the EU gave to the Palestinians, said that the current budget was locked in until 2013. The EU, as an organization, currently provides the PA with about €500 million in annual aid, with another €500m. coming from the individual states. This is the EU’s largest per capita foreign aid contribution.


Berger said that much of the aid was going toward building Palestinian institutions for eventual statehood, and that if it appeared that the statehood was not in the offing, there would likely be questions about the continuation of that aid. However, he said, if there would be a diplomatic breakthrough and a Palestinian state would be created, EU support would probably increase to ensure its success.

On Monday evening, a European Parliament delegation arrived to look at how the EU funds were being spent. The delegation has been characterized by diplomatic officials in Jerusalem as biased against Israel, and three European parliamentarians who were supposed to be part of the group cancelled their participation because of what they said was a bias. Nine of the 15-member group will be going to Gaza through Egypt on Wednesday.

The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, said at the press briefing that while the budget to the PA was locked in until 2013, discussion on the budget from 2014-2020 would begin soon, and there would likely be a debate inside the EU about whether funds should be spent on internal EU goals such as reducing poverty, or on supporting the EU’s larger geopolitical goals.

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