The court’s decision coincided with increasing European impatience with the stalled effort toward peace in the Middle East, which has fed a swell of opinion in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state. In a compromise resolution, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, voted 498 to 88, with 111 abstentions, to support “in principle the recognition of Palestinian statehood” in tandem with revived peace negotiations, according to the Parliament’s website.
In Geneva, a Palestinian statement at a conference on the Geneva Conventions accused Israel of flouting international law in many areas. “The prolonged military occupation of Palestine must end, as it is the source of the pervasive violations of international humanitarian law in occupied Palestine,” the statement said. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has been on the European list of terrorist organizations since 2001. It has always objected to the classification.
The General Court of the European Union ruled on Wednesday that Hamas’s status had been determined by news and Internet reports rather than by “acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities.”
At the same time, though, the judicial body said that European restrictions on Hamas, such as asset freezes, should remain in force for at least three months to give the parties time to appeal.
Decisions by the court may be appealed on points of law to the bloc’s highest judicial body, the Court of Justice. Both bodies are based in Luxembourg.
The developments incensed many Israelis, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for the court to restore the label of terrorist group to Hamas.
At a gathering with foreign journalists on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu said the various moves “point to a spirit of appeasement in Europe of the very forces that threaten Europe itself.”
Of the wave of parliamentary resolutions recognizing Palestine as a state, Mr. Netanyahu said, “These declarations merely reinforce Palestinian intransigence, pushing peace further away.”
The office of Mousa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas leader, said in a statement that the General Court’s decision was “a victory for all supporters of the right of our people in the resistance, and all supporters of the liberation against occupation.”
The European Union issued a statement calling the court’s decision “procedural” rather than substantive, and said it was studying the ruling and would decide later whether to appeal.
“It is a legal ruling of a court, not a political decision taken by the E.U. governments,” the statement said.
The court ruling was made known hours before the European Parliament’s vote on Palestinian statehood, which was widely viewed as a watered-down version of earlier European gestures. Sweden decided in October to recognize a Palestinian state, and since then, several European legislatures have approved nonbinding votes in favor of recognition.
With regional diplomacy accelerating, the European ballot came as the Palestinian Authority pressed for a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to establish a schedule for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and for the recognition of a Palestinian state.
The collision of increased pressure from Europe and traditional support in the United States for Israel prompted Secretary of State John Kerry to visit London, Paris and Rome this week to meet with European foreign ministers and, separately, with Mr. Netanyahu, who is facing a divisive election campaign. Mr. Kerry also met with senior Palestinian and Arab League officials.
In Strasbourg, Social Democratic lawmakers had proposed that the symbolic vote on Wednesday call on the 28 member states of the European Union to recognize Palestinian statehood unconditionally.
But a rival coalition of lawmakers insisted that recognition be linked to peace talks.
The compromise approved on Wednesday and drawn up by five political groups said that the European Parliament supported “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.”
The Parliament also expressed “its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law.”