Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the EU’s decision on Monday – some 15
years in the making – to put the military wing of Hezbollah on its list of
The decision to place Hezbollah’s military wing –
but not its political one – on the blacklist came at a meeting of the EU’s 28
In addition to having a militia with thousands of
well-equipped, trained fighters, the organization is also a political party that
is part of the Lebanese government.
Israeli officials said that rather
than try to press the EU to outlaw Hezbollah’s political wing as well, Israel
will be concentrating on ensuring that the decision is implemented.
move could have far-reaching implications regarding Hezbollah’s ability to raise
funds; intelligence cooperation between the EU and countries that recognize
Hezbollah as a terrorist group, such as the US and Israel; and EU countries’
abilities to monitor the group’s activities inside Europe. It will also allow EU
governments to freeze any assets Hezbollah’s military wing has in
Netanyahu said that he hoped the decision would now lead to real
steps in Europe against the group, and stated that in Israel’s view, Hezbollah
was one, indivisible organization.
The prime minister, who last week
spoke with a number of European leaders to urge them to blacklist Hezbollah,
said that Israel has for years made huge efforts to explain to the Europeans
that Hezbollah was an Iranian terrorist proxy operating throughout the
“For years, the organization has carried out attacks against
innocent civilians around the world. Recently, it has tried to carry out dozens
of attacks – some which were carried out – in Asia, Africa, America and Europe,
including the murderous action in Bulgaria and the thwarted attack in Cyprus,”
The EU’s decision came just after the one-year anniversary of
the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian
bus driver were killed.
In addition, Netanyahu said, thousands of
Hezbollah fighters are carrying out war crimes in Syria on a daily basis and
taking part in the slaughter in the war-torn country.
said that despite Israel’s intensive efforts over the years to get Hezbollah
blacklisted, what tipped the scales inside the EU was Hezbollah’s massive
involvement in the Syrian civil war.
“This was not done as a favor to
Israel,” one official said.
“We have been working on this for years, but
what decided the issue was Syria. The EU sees this more as part of its Syria
policy than its Israel policy.”
According to the official, the move now
gives the Europeans the ability to say they are doing something about
The official said the fact that the decision was not connected to
Israel is diplomatically beneficial for Jerusalem, because now the EU cannot say
that since they took the move, they will want something from Israel in
The officials categorically rejected the idea that the decision
had anything to do with last week’s publication of new EU guidelines governing
engagement with Israeli entities over the Green Line, and said that the
Hezbollah decision should not be viewed as a “carrot” the EU wanted to give
Israel for having upset it with the guidelines.
Netanyahu, speaking in
the Knesset after the decision was announced, added that while he views the
European Union’s decision on settlement funding as negative, he knows how to
express appreciation when it makes a positive decision.
Peres sent letters to European leaders saying this was a necessary and
“Your decision sends a clear message to terror
organizations and the countries which harbor them that their murderous actions
will not be tolerated,” he wrote.
The decision came despite concern
voiced in many EU capitals over the years that this move could fuel instability in Lebanon and the Middle East.
caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said the decision was “hasty” and could
lead to further sanctions against the movement that would complicate Lebanese
“This will hinder Lebanese political life in the future,
especially considering our sensitivities in Lebanon,” he said. “We need to
tighten bonds among Lebanese parties, rather than create additional
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the
designation of the military wing as a terrorist organization “will do nothing to
affect the EU's and the UK’s strong relationship with, and support for, Lebanon.
As we have shown by our recent large increases in security and humanitarian
assistance to Lebanon, the UK remains deeply committed to Lebanon’s
To soothe concerns by some EU governments that this would
harm relations with Lebanon, the EU ministers agreed to make a statement
pledging to continue dialogue with all political groups.
“We also agreed
that the delivery of legitimate financial transfers to Lebanon and delivery of
assistance from the European Union and its member states will not be affected,”
the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
Mark Dubowitz, the
executive director of the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of
Democracies, said the decisions “still ignores the evidence, including
statements from Hezbollah’s own leadership, that Hezbollah is not a two-winged
organization neatly divided between political and military
Dubowitz, a leading expert on sanctions targeting Hezbollah and
Iran, added that “the US government, working with Congress, now needs to use its
designation and secondary sanctions authority to target all of Hezbollah’s
political, commercial and charitable entities in Europe and elsewhere which
masquerade as legitimate players. By designating and identifying these entities,
the US can lay the predicate for an expanded set of measures to encourage Europe
to target Hezbollah in its entirety.”
“Washington and Jerusalem should
also use the Hezbollah designation to encourage Europe to take the next logical
step and designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, including their terrorist arm
the Quds Force, who are Hezbollah’s masters. Regardless of who is the Iranian
president, they remain the long arm of the Iranian terrorist, nuclear and human
rights threat,” said Dubowitz.
“There’s no question of accepting
terrorist organizations in Europe,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in a statement
that the EU had taken an important step by “dealing with the military wing of
Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting
its capacity to act.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has openly
called on the EU to take this step, applauded the move.
“A growing number
of governments are recognizing Hezbollah as the dangerous and destabilizing
terrorist organization that it is,” he said.
Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and International Relations Minister
Yuval Steinitz all praised the move.
Avigdor Liberman, the head of the
Knesset’s Foreign and Defense Committee, was more critical, however, saying that
the EU – by listing only the military wing of Hezbollah on the terrorist list –
was “as usual” only going “half the way” and making a decision that was “not
“The military and political wings of Hezbollah are two sides of
the same coin,” he said. “To present it as if part of the organization is
extreme, and part is moderate, is like the question whether a cannibal can be
Lahav Harkov, Greer Fay Cashman, Yaakov
Lappin and Reuters contributed to this report.