Hamas is part of the Palestinian reality and calling it a terror group prevents it from being integrated into mainstream politics, the Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki has argued.
The organisation, which controls the government in the Gaza Strip and has been blamed by Israel for repeated rocket launches towards southern Israel, is considered a terrorist organisation by Western countries including Britain and the United States.
Four Israelis were among 27 people killed in a two-day escalation involving rocket fire and air strikes in the region earlier this month.
But Dr Malki, who is one of the leading voices in the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank, said Hamas’s support among the Palestinian population needed to be acknowledged.
He also attacked Israel for using accusations of antisemitism to “shield itself” from criticism of its actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Trying to exclude Hamas completely means we are pushing them towards further extremism and many cases, even in our recent history, has proven that excluding groups [and] political parties do not really serve the whole policy of trying to ... bring them into the mainstream politics,” he told an audience at the global affairs think-tank Chatham House.
“Our policy and approach is to maintain national reconciliation among the Palestinians, try to bring them to be part of the Palestinian national mainstream.”
The minister praised Egypt’s role in negotiating with Hamas and drawing it towards reconciliation, adding that he hoped to succeed in convincing it to transform.
He also said Israel was using accusations of antisemitism to deflect criticism of its actions in the territories it occupies.
“Israel is trying its best through some of their allies to shield itself from any kind of criticism by putting certain laws that equate criticising Israel as an antisemitism,” he said.
“This is really, absolutely unacceptable. Israel is a country like all of us, could commit crimes, war crimes, and if that’s the case then Israel has to be punished [in court].”
Dr Malki, in London for talks with UK government officials, attacked the Israel government’s decision to reduce the taxes it collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf.
Israel decided earlier this year to deduct the payments it says the Palestinians have been making to the families of people arrested or killed attacking Israeli forces — a so-called “martyr’s fund”.
But Dr Malki said the money was provided to the families “who suffer most from the occupation”, adding: “let us just say that Israel is not well-placed to make a determination regarding how others spend their money, given how it spends its own.”