STRASBOURG, France (AP) – A senior European Parliament member said Tuesday he believes the EU may be able to continue with direct aid to the Palestinians even after Hamas forms a government.
Hans-Gert Poettering, chairman of the conservative European People’s Party, the biggest group in the EU assembly, said any longterm EU aid will be conditional on Hamas’ changing its course and recognizing the right of Israel to exist.
“We are not entirely pessimistic. … Opinion polls show that of Hamas voters only a minority supports the (radical) position,” Poettering said. “The majority voted for Hamas because they were disenchanted with corruption and the Fatah Party, defeated in this year’s elections.” “We’d like to give them a chance. It must be clear to them that, long term, this support is only possible if they recognize Israel.”
Poettering said aid would go directly to certain projects so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of terrorists. He said it was too early to speculate whether aid would continue for a “few weeks or a few months,” saying it would depend on how the new government behaved.
With Hamas expected to form a government later this month, the EU is grappling with the dilemma of how to keep providing funding to ease the plight of the Palestinian people while ensuring that none of its aid ends up with Hamas, a group committed to the destruction of Israel. The United States has already ruled out money for a Hamas-led government.
On Feb. 27, the EU granted ¤120 million (US$143 million) in urgent aid to the Palestinians for utility bills, U.N. projects and Palestinian Authority salaries. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to arrive in Strasbourg late Tuesday to discuss the question of funding with senior EU officials, including European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso and European Parliament President Josep Borrell.