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If Hamas representatives come to Brussels to participate in an EU parliamentary gathering at the end of the month they will "not be let into the building," European officials have informed their counterparts in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post reported Friday that one of the five Palestinian Legislative Council members due to attend the EU's Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) is Mahmoud Ahmad al-Ramahi, a Ramallah anesthesiologist and the PLC's secretary-general who, although not a Hamas member, was No. 8 on the organization's Change and Reform List.
Israeli diplomatic sources said that Israel has not entered into detailed talks with the EU about what would happen if someone on the Hamas-list, but not a Hamas member, showed up for the meeting - a type of dilemma Israel is bound to face with increasing frequency as technocrats without a clear organizational affiliation take lead positions in the Hamas-led PA government.
EU sources told the Post that since Ramahi was on Hamas's list, but not clearly a Hamas-member, they would let him attend the meeting. The EU has not officially articulated its policy on this matter.
EMPA is the "parliamentary dimension" of the Euro- Mediterranean Partnership, also known as the Barcelona Process. Established in 2003, EMPA brings together for discussions 240 parliamentarians, half representing EU member states, and half from the EU's Mediterranean partners (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority).
Israeli diplomatic sources said that this body was governed by EU regulations which have Hamas listed as a terrorist organization, and as such would be unable to include Hamas members in its deliberations.
In a related matter, Israel is working through diplomatic channels to get the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to rescind an invitation to a Hamas member to its next session in Strasbourg, France, next month.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel "strongly regretted" that the Parliamentary Assembly's Middle East subcommittee had extended an invitation to a Hamas member.
"This is a slap in the face to the very principle upon which the Council of Europe is based, namely democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Regev said.
"Europe itself has characterized Hamas as a terrorist organization, and this giving legitimacy to Hamas stands in stark contradiction to the position adopted by the Quartet, of which both Europe and Russia are full members," he said.
The Quartet has set three benchmarks, which Hamas must meet in order to gain international legitimacy: recognizing Israel, renouncing terrorism, and accepting previously signed agreements.
By inviting Hamas members, Regev said, the Council of Europe was "doing nothing positive whatsoever." Rather, he said, this move was "giving legitimacy to an unreformed Hamas and strengthening the current extreme positions of the organization." While EMPA is an EU body, the Council of Europe has no institutional connection to the EU.