Palestinians scored two partial victories in Europe on Wednesday, with a European Union court removing Hamas from the EU terrorist list, and the European Parliament throwing its weight behind the global momentum to recognise, in principle, a Palestinian state.
Both these apparent successes come with caveats. The bloc can maintain asset freezes against members of Hamas, which was put on the EU terrorist list as part of broader measures to fight terrorism in the wake of 9/11. It won elections in 2006 and runs Gaza, and has long contested the classification.
The Islamic militant group, which calls for the destruction of Israel and has an armed wing that fought the Israeli military during the latter's offensive in Gaza over the summer, hailed the decision.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described Hamas and Islamic State as "branches of the same poisonous tree", urged the EU to reverse it.
The EU court ruled on Wednesday that the listing was based on press and Internet reports and not on "acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities."
The court insisted that its ruling did not "imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group." It therefore ruled that the asset freezes should stay in place for three months pending further EU actions.
The EU is considering its next steps. It has two months to appeal. The terrorist list designation bars EU officials from dealing with the group, and requires that any of the group's funds in EU countries be frozen.
BREAKING: PM Netanyahu slams EU countries: "The Europeans are hypocrites that learned nothing from the holocaust"— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) December 17, 2014
Salah Bardawil, a Hamas official in Gaza, called the decision a "strong, good shift" that he said would ultimately lead to European action against Israel.
Netanyahu rejected the court's explanation, saying: "We expect the EU to return Hamas to the terror list, where anyone can see that it belongs. Hamas is a murderous terror group whose charter clearly states its goal of destroying Israel."
At a vote today, the European Parliament stopped short of pushing for outright recognition of a Palestinian state, urging renewed peace talks instead.
Legislators voted 498 to 88 on Wednesday in favor of supporting "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood" — but as part of a two-state solution with Israel.
The resolution supports two states, Jerusalem as the capital of both states, on the basis of pre-1967 borders - before Israel occupied swathes of territory following its victory in the Six Day War.
The issue is divisive and prompted shouting and emotional arguing in Wednesday's debate in the European Parliament.
Labour's Richard Howitt MEP, chair of the European Parliament's Sub-Committee on the Middle East said: "It is right that the European Parliament reflects the initiative for Palestinian recognition which is sweeping parliaments across Europe, and which today sees us agree that this should be a common position for all EU countries.
"Today's vote in Strasbourg backed by five major party groupings is a political rather than a legal decision but the strength of support will send a strong message of Europe-wide support for the principle of Palestinian statehood. European recognition of Palestinian statehood is neither an alternative to a two-state solution nor for peace talks to achieve it, but could be a vital injection of impetus towards both."
Israel's government argues recognition would discourage the Palestinians from negotiations and make peace harder to achieve.Suggest a correction