Europe needs to decide whether it will allow itself to be attacked with
impunity, an Israeli diplomatic official said on Wednesday, explaining the
argument Israeli representatives will now use to get the EU to place Hezbollah
on its terrorist blacklist.
Since it is clear Bulgaria is not going to
respond to Hezbollah attacks on its soil by bombing training bases in Lebanon,
according to this argument, if there is no strong European diplomatic reaction,
then Hezbollah will essentially have immunity.
The official said that
Bulgaria’s announcement on Tuesday that its investigation uncovered Hezbollah
involvement in the 2012 Burgas attack which killed six people, including five
Israelis, has put the issue of placing Hezbollah on the EU’s terrorist list very
much “back in play.” He said it was clear Israeli diplomats, especially in
Europe, would be making this a priority in the coming days and
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Wednesday evening with his
Bulgarian counterpart, Boiko Borisov, and thanked him for the “professional and
Netanyahu said the findings were clear and prove
that Hezbollah was directly responsible for the “atrocity in
Netanyahu said this was yet more evidence that Iran and its
proxies are waging a global terrorist campaign spanning countries and
“I hope that the Europeans will draw the necessary
conclusions regarding the true nature of Hezbollah after this criminal attack on
European soil against an EU-member state,” he said.
Advisor Yaakov Amidror has been busy in the last few days drumming up support
for placing Hezbollah on the EU’s terror list, a step the EU has adamantly
failed to take for nearly two decades.
Placing Hezbollah on the EU terror
blacklist will make it illegal to transfer funds from EU countries to the
organization. The decision needs the consensus of all 27 EU countries, but
France – and to a lesser degree Germany – have in the past opposed the move,
claiming that it will weaken leverage inside Lebanon and increase instability
German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement on Wednesday
saying that should the evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the attack be
substantiated, “consequences will have to be drawn.” France has not yet formally
sounded off on the matter, while the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
said the EU needed to “reflect” on the issue.
Ronald Lauder, president of
the World Jewish Congress, said he would use an already scheduled meeting this
week with French President François Hollande to press him on the
The US, which listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the
1990s, has called for the Europeans to follow suit to choke the flow of funds
from Europe to the organization.
“We strongly urge other governments
around the world – and particularly our partners in Europe – to take immediate
action to crack down on Hezbollah. We need to send an unequivocal message to
this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with
impunity,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
dismissed Bulgaria’s findings and said they were part of an Israeli smear
Deputy Hezbollah leader Naim Qassem said the accusation was
part of “allegations and incitements and accusations against Hezbollah” pursued
by Israel after it had failed to defeat Hezbollah militarily. “All these
accusations against Hezbollah will have no effect, and do not change the facts,”
Qassem said. “We will not submit to these pressures and we will not change our
priorities. Our compass will remain directed towards Israel.”
sentiments were echoed by some in Bulgaria as well, with the country’s
opposition saying the investigation’s conclusions were unjustified and
dangerous, and blamed the government for acting under US and Israeli pressure.
“It is an unjustifiable act that is very dangerous,” Bulgarian Socialist Party
leader Sergei Stanishev said.
“The government entered into an
international political game in an irresponsible manner, without calculating the
The nationalist Attack and ethnic Turkish MRF parties
joined in the Socialist criticism, saying it was too soon for the right-wing
government of Borisov to blame Hezbollah because the investigation had not yet
Some 15 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million population are
Muslim, mostly a centuriesold community dating from the time of Turkish
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said the investigation
had been independent. The EU’s police organization Europol, which aided the
investigation, supported the Bulgarian conclusions. It said early assumptions
that the bombing was a suicide attack had proven false and investigations showed
the device was detonated remotely. “Nobody has ever exercised any pressure over
Bulgaria,” Mladenov told BNT television.
Outside Bulgaria, a
correspondent for The Financial Times apologized for suggesting that Israel may
have bribed Bulgaria to frame Hezbollah.
“Sincere apologies and regret
for ill-conceived tweet yesterday about Israel and Bulgaria,” Borzou Daragahi,
the London-based newspaper’s Middle East and North Africa correspondent, wrote
Wednesday on Twitter.
The previous day Daragahi had tweeted, “I don’t
doubt Hezbollah/Iran could be behind Bulgaria bombing, but also think Israel
could pay Sofia to say anything.”
Reuters and JTA contributed to this