(photo credit: AP [File])
Amid Hamas efforts to break through international isolation, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the European Parliament Wednesday that Hamas's political program "is unfortunately unacceptable to the international community."
Solana, who spoke to the parliament in Strasbourg, France, on the same day Hamas held its first cabinet meeting, said that PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has not given a clear indication "that the Hamas government is prepared to respect the principles established by the European Union: eschewing the use of violence as a means of settling the conflict, recognizing the State of Israel and observing the agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel." At the same time, he called on Israel to transfer customs and tax payments it collects for the Palestinian Authority, and which it has held up since March. "This is Palestinian money, which cannot be withheld," he said.
Solana also came out against unilateral measures that "may jeopardize the two-state solution." He also said the EU will "keep a very close watch on developments in east Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley, where Israel is engaging in action particularly harmful to the Palestinians, and on the construction of the separating fence."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said that Israel "welcomed" Solana's statement that Hamas had clearly not met the benchmarks established by the international community. "Until it does so," Regev said, "Hamas will not be considered a legitimate political interlocutor."
Regarding Solana's call for Israel to transfer revenue payments to the PA, Regev asked, "Can anyone guarantee that money that is transferred today to the Hamas controlled treasury will not come back to haunt us the future in the form of suicide bombings?"
Solana said the EU's criteria for dealing with Hamas were not "arbitrary," and were "the minimum requirements" necessary if the political ideal of the EU were to become a reality - "a viable Palestinian state in peaceful coexistence with Israel under the principles of international law."
He warned that Hamas's unwillingness to "come into line with our principles" must "inevitably have consequences for the EU: the impossibility of regarding Hamas as a valid partner until it changes its stance."
At the same time, he said the EU would continue to support PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas "and the peace program on which he was elected by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian voters." He said the EU was currently reviewing its program of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, and that until Hamas showed "unequivocal willingness to respect the international community's principles, we cannot do business as usual with the Palestinian Authority."
The EU will, he said, continue aiding the Palestinian people "because this is a moral imperative which the EU cannot shirk," and "because the humanitarian crisis and instability in the occupied territories do no good to anyone, starting with Israel itself."
Guidelines governing this assistance are expected to be drawn up when the foreign ministers of the 25 EU nations meet on April 10.
Turning to Israel, Solana said the recent elections "seem to have shown a consolidation of the desire for separation (materialized mainly by the wall built between Israel and the Palestinian territories) and lack of dialogue with the Palestinian people in determining Israel's borders. This is not a sustainable solution for those, like us, who favor negotiation."