Hamas may no longer be officially considered a terror organization by the European Union after Wednesday. The European Court of Justice in Luxemburg is set to publish its decision on Wednesday regarding an appeal filed by Hamas against its inclusion in the European Union's list of terrorist organizations.
According to predictions by Israel and the European Union, the court is expected to accept the appeal and remove Hamas from the blacklist on the grounds that the process to declare Hamas as a terror organization was conducted against EU procedures and does not include sufficient legal evidence to brand Hamas a terror organization.
Although Hamas is expected to present the decision as a victory, Israel and the EU say that the change will not have an effect on the group's position as a terror group in Europe as the court will be given a few months to rebuild the file against Hamas with evidence that will enable the Gaza-based group to remain on the list of terror organizations.
Hamas was added to the EU's list of terror organizations in 2003 after a diplomatic effort led by Israel and the US.
A few months ago, the Court of Justice made a decision to remove the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan terror group, from the EU's terrorist list because of similar reasoning. The court concluded that the file did not have sufficient legal evidence proving the group was a terror organization. However, as is expected in the case of Hamas, the court gave the EU a window of time to re-submit its request and build a stronger legal file against the Sri Lankan group.
Hamas, aware of the case of the Sri Lankan group, saw an opportunity to remove itself from the EU's terror list which prevents all European nations from contacting the organization. Hamas appealed to the court on the same grounds as the Sri Lankan group and, as stated previously, will receive the court's decision on Wednesday.
According to reports from within Israel, some European countries, fearing the possiblity that Hamas would be taken of the EU's terror list, have already begun collecting intelligence information that could be useful in building a strong case against the group.
Israel, on its part, has a department dedicated to the issue within the Foreign Ministry and has already been collecting incriminating evidence against terror organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
High-ranking government officials said that no matter what the decision of the court will be it will not change Hamas' status as a terror organization in Europe, and it will only require the EU countries to prepare a stronger legal case against Hamas.
The weakness of the current case against Hamas, and against the Tamil Tigers, was said to be due to the nature of the European process for declaring entities as terror organizations. In the European system, the list must be reviewed every six months which resulted in the Europeans using unclassified material and media publications to rebuild the files, which were then automatically approved.
The Europeans feared presenting classified intelligence material to the court, witht the apprehension that the information would ultimately end up in the hands of Hamas and aid the terror group. Therefore, the Europeans relied on low-level material to build the file against Hamas. The EU now realizes that it will have to introduce more solid evidence.
Another reason for the court to have accepted the appeal by Hamas to take themselves off the EU's terror list could be the court's attempt to strengthen its stance within the EU - not fearing confrontation with European countries.
Labor Chairman Isaac Herzog criticized the expected decision by the European Court of Justice and called the predicted move a "big mistake" on Tuesday.
In a joint message with Hatnua Chairman Tzipi Livni, the two MKS said, "Apparently it is not enough to say that we are strong against Hamas, but rather we must know how to operate against Hamas."
Itamar Eichner and Elior Levy contributed to this report.