Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday welcomed the European Union’s decision to include Hezbollah’s military wing on its list of terrorist organizations, though stated that Israel did not view any distinction between the organization's armed and political wings.
"As far as the State of Israel is concerned, Hezbollah is one organization, the arms of which are indistinguishable," Netanyahu said in a statement.
He added that Hezbollah "has imposed terrorist rule on wide sections of Lebanon, has converted them into an Iranian protectorate and is stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets there. These have been placed in the heart of civilian populations and are designed to be fired at population centers in Israel."
The premier expressed his hope that the decision would lead to "tangible steps against the organization".
Following the European Union’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing, President Shimon Peres sent a special communique to EU governments and institutions expressing Israel’s gratitude for the resolution.
“This is a necessary, wise step that is aimed at preventing the spread of terrorism that is not just limited to the Middle East, but does damage in every corner of the earth, including European soil,” Peres wrote. “Unfortunately, we saw this last year after the murderous attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, as well as attempts to harm innocent European civilians in large cities throughout the continent.”
“Your decision sends a determined message to terrorist organizations and countries that sponsor terrorist groups in their territory,” the president wrote.
In March, Peres lobbied the EU to include Hezbollah on its blacklist during a special speech he delivered to the European Council. The president also brought up the issue in meetings with various heads of state, including those from France, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Italy.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also welcomed the EU's decision to blacklist Hezbollah on Monday.
"This is an important step, and it's good that there is an agreement among European countries on the issue. Hezbollah is a dangerous, uncurbed terrorist organization, which has not hesitated in the past and won't hesitate in the future to carry out bombing attacks across Europe in the service, training, and funding of Iran," the defense minister said.
"Tightening the ring around it will enable an increase in intelligence cooperation between countries against Hezbollah, and will improve the fight against the organization and its emissaries," Ya'alon said.
"The fight against Hezbollah must be consistent, determined, and uncompromising, and steps of the kind taken today in the EU will assist this," he added.
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) welcomed the decision, saying that although it was late, it is "better late than never."
In a statement to the press, Shalom stated that since Hamas was listed in 2004, he knows that there is a huge significance in the move, as it acts to come down "hard and heavy on the activities of a terrorist organization masquerading as a political organization."
"Despite the move being late, it is better late than never," Shalom said, adding that the present discussion shows terror organizations that the international community will stand steadfast to combat terror.
Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri used his Facebook account on Monday to praise the ban.
“As someone who has spent most of his adult life fighting murderous terrorism, including that of Hezbollah, I believe that this is a genuine contribution to strengthening international cooperation in the war against all terror groups of their kind,” the former Shin Bet chief said.
Likud Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman said the decision was “insufficient.”
“As is their wont, the Europeans went just half way and came to a decision that was partial and insufficient,” said Liberman, the former foreign minister who heads the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“The military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “Any attempt to portray this organization as one that has an extremist side and a more moderate side is like asking whether a cannibal could be a vegetarian.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday also hailed the EU's decision.
"We believe the decision of the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is an important step," Livni said at a Hatnua faction meeting.
"It is important for the pragmatics to see that the international community won't accept terrorist organizations using the mask of a political party," she added. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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