European officials hope statement is first step toward more moderate stance.
By HERB KEINON
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's recent comment that peace was possible if Israel withdrew to the 1967 lines was a step toward recognizing Israel's right to exist, and was likely timed to coincide with a meeting of EU officials in Brussels to discuss funding to the Palestinians, a European diplomatic official told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
Haniyeh, in an interview with Ha'aretz Monday, said, "If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, peace will prevail and we will implement a cease-fire [hudna] for many years." He said his Hamas-led government was "prepared to maintain a long-term cease-fire with Israel."
Comments like these, the European diplomat said, "makes it appear that Haniyeh realizes the importance of devising a new style and content and ideology to deal with the new situation."
The diplomat said that "we realize how hard it is for a guy elected on a radical platform to steer his constituency toward accepting what for them is heresy. This is significant because he said it on the record and can't take it back."
European Commission officials met Tuesday in Brussels with a number of representatives of EU states at the technical level to discuss creation of a new "funding mechanism" that would enable the transfer of funds to the Palestinians but bypass the Hamas government.
The decision to set up this temporary funding vehicle was made at a meeting of the Quartet in New York on May 9.
Tuesday's meeting in Brussels will be followed on Wednesday by a meeting between European officials and officials from donor countries Norway and Japan, as well as representatives from Egypt, Jordan the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to discuss the same matter. The hope is that this new funding mechanism would be in place by the end of June.
Although the European diplomatic official said that no one could tell whether Haniyeh's comment was linked to the meeting in Brussels, "I would say it is more than a coincidence. This is an indication that they are thinking in the right direction inside Hamas," he said.
The official added that it was likely these types of remarks would influence the officials meeting in Brussels. "This is part of what we have been asking," he said. "Haniyeh is going some of the way, not all of the way."
The international community has demanded since Hamas came to power in January that the organization recognize Israel, accept previous agreements and commit to non-violence before being granted international legitimacy.
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