Israeli officials skeptical of Hamas claims of EU back-channels

J'lem sources say claims not coincidental, Hamas wants to compensate for loss of support in Morsi, Syria.

July 13, 2013 23:14
1 minute read.
Khaled Mashaal, Ismail Haniyeh at Dec 8 Gaza rally

Mashaal and Haniyeh at Gaza rally 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

Israeli officials expressed skepticism on Saturday about Hamas claims that European governments have stepped up back-channel contacts with the organization, which is on the EU’s terror blacklist.

The officials said it was not coincidental Hamas was making these claims at a time when it has long lost its key backer in Syria, and over the last few weeks has lost an important supporter in deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

The relationship among Hamas, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was considered close, and Morsi’s fall has been widely interpreted as an additional blow to Hamas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost a key supporter two years ago when Hosni Mubarak was deposed, spoke with Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour over the weekend.

“I am not aware of any back channel,” the Israeli official said of the report in The Guardian, adding that he was skeptical because Hamas was the source for the story. “In they past they have spoken to some parliamentarians, but it does not mean a lot.”

After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, the international community clamped three conditions on engagement with the organization: that it renounces terrorism, recognize Israel, and accept previous Israel-Palestinian agreements.

“I remember the cynicism back then, when everyone said these conditions would not hold. But they did hold. If the story is now that there is some kind of back channel, the truth remains that Hamas had fundamentally remained in diplomatic isolation. The international community has for the most part stood by the benchmarks and refused to have diplomatic relations with Hamas,” he said.

There are some exceptions, most notably Russia, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland.

According to the official, the whole matter of engagement with Hamas has not been raised by Netanyahu in meetings with EU officials for quite some time, a sign that it is not currently considered a significant issue.

The Guardian report quoted Hamas officials as saying meetings with European government representatives and intermediaries have taken place in Gaza, Cairo and various European capitals over recent months. No specific details of the meetings were given, but among the countries named were Britain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain.

The paper said that the UK, Netherlands and Sweden denied contact, while the other countries did not respond to requests for a comment.

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