The leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations
visiting Israel on their annual mission expressed “deep disappointment” on
Tuesday with the European Union for not listing Hezbollah as a terrorist
organization, following the Bulgarian government report blaming the Islamist
terrorist militia for last July’s Burgas airport bombing in 2012.
very disappointed that the Europeans have not expressed support for labeling
Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice
chairman of the Conference of Presidents.
“It is a huge mistake, since
there is no other punishment available. There was an attack on European soil,
and this is a real test for the war on terrorism which they are not passing at
the moment,” Hoenlein said.
Bulgaria has given the names of two suspects
in July 18’s Burgas bus bombing, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus
driver were killed, to Europol in hopes of uncovering more information about the
organization and financing of the terrorist attack, Bulgarian media reported on
Tuesday. Last week, Bulgaria unveiled the findings of its probe into the attack,
implicating “the military wing of Hezbollah” in the bombing.
hopes that Europol can determine whether the suspects had been present in any
European states before the Burgas attack.
The Conference heads added that
there was “a cloud hanging over the future of European Jews,” referencing the
rise of anti-Semitism on the continent, comments made in Hungary by far-right
politicians, and the terrorist attack in Toulouse in March 2012 that killed four
The EU has remained noncommittal on whether it would
consider putting Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations, although some
European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Foreign
Secretary William Hague have indicated a willingness to take
Hague said following the Bulgarian report that it was “important
that the EU respond robustly to an attack on European soil,” and that he would
be “talking to our EU colleagues about the measures we can now take to continue
to make our citizens safer.”
Speaking to the press in Jerusalem,
Conference leaders Richard Stone, Mortimer Zuckerman and Hoenlein would not,
however, comment on the controversial nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel
for the position of US secretary of defense.
Hoenlein said that President
Barak Obama had set up a meeting between a small delegation of representatives
of the US Jewish community and Hagel, at which Vice President Joe Biden was also
present, where the issue of Iran and its nuclear program were thoroughly
Zuckerman, the chairman of the 2013 mission to Israel, said,
however, that US Jewish organizations wished to stay out of partisan politics
and leave Hagel’s nomination to the Senate.
“We suspect that he will be
confirmed and that we’ll have to deal with whatever problems we have with him,
as we have done with anyone else with whom we’ve had a difference of opinion in
the past,” Zuckerman said.
They noted that Iran was the main issue on the
agenda of the Conference of Presidents, saying that the parties negotiating with
Iran needed to be resolute and that upcoming talks should not be
“An end to talks needs to be defined and the consequences,
such as sanctions and others, have to be felt,” Hoenlein said.
whether the traditional Jewish organizations felt that their relationship with
the administration had been weakened with the rise of new representative bodies
of the Jewish community in the US, the Conference heads categorically denied
that this was the case.
“J Street is a myth created by the media,”
Hoenlein said, emphasizing that the traditional Jewish organizations had
extremely positive relations with the White House.
“We reject the premise
that we have strained relations with the administration, we have excellent
relations and regular access,” declared Stone, the chairman of the Conference of
The Conference heads also addressed attitudes among US Jews
to Israel, stating that any alienation among Jewish youth was not a result of
Israeli policy but due to a weakening of the general relationship with Israel
due to assimilation, as well as liberal trends on US university
Hoenlein denied that there was a decrease in support for Israel
in the US, pointing to favorable support for the Jewish state in national polls,
but he acknowledged that Jewish students needed to be better prepared to deal
with “the extremism and poisonous atmosphere on university campuses.”
added that the Conference had initiated a Lawfare Project program to help deal
with this issue.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.