Hezbollah supporters Beirut 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
BERLIN – Austria backtracked on Tuesday from its hard-line position against a
ban of Hezbollah within the EU, stressing its undecided position ahead of a late
July foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to reach a consensus on outlawing the
Lebanese terrorist group.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday on
a mobile telephone, Isabella Pöschl, a spokeswoman for Austria’s Foreign
Ministry, said: “Currently our position is neither yes or no” with respect to
sanctioning Hezbollah’s military wing.
She said Austria had requested
information from the United Kingdom, and experts in the Austrian Foreign
Ministry were reviewing the material to “make up our mind.”
to say what information the British government had sent to Vienna.
is spearheading the effort among the 28 EU member countries to include
Hezbollah’s military wing in the body’s terror list. Austria, the Czech
Republic, Malta, Poland, Ireland and Slovakia have resisted labeling Hezbollah a
Austria’s opposition to this labeling is grounded
in the consequences for Lebanon’s “internal situation,” since Hezbollah plays a
key role in the fragile political system, Pöschl said.
In sharp contrast
to the Austrian position, Mideast commentators have argued that Hezbollah is
destabilizing Lebanon and Syria by fighting in support of President Bashar
Tony Badran , a leading expert on Syria and Lebanon and
fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in March on the
website of the popular Lebanese news outlet NOW that “the proposition that
targeting Hezbollah would negatively impact Lebanon presupposes that the group
currently contributes to stability.
Such a view requires quite the
suspension of disbelief.
In reality, Hezbollah has thoroughly subverted
the country and its citizens in virtually every aspect.”
He added, “Left
unmolested, Hezbollah not only undermines Lebanon’s security, institutions, and
political system, but is also on track to compromise its foreign relations, ruin
its financial system, and destroy whatever remains of its social
Austria has faced criticism from Israel and Middle East
experts for a feeble foreign policy that fails to adhere to international
Austria announced in the spring that it would implement a phased
withdrawal of its troops from the Golan Heights because of the Syrian
In response to Austria’s decision, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
said last month that the move shows why Israel cannot rely on international
forces for its security.
Austria’s decision to withdraw 380 troops from
the 1,000-member UN Disengagement Observer Force on the Israel-Syria border
added to the volatile climate in the North.
Meanwhile, in Brussels on
Tuesday, Dr. Matthew Levitt , who heads the counterterrorism program at the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, delivered a presentation to the EU on
the need to outlaw Hezbollah.
He wrote the Post
by email: “While there
are still several sticking points for a few member states, there is a very clear
trend toward supporting a ban of Hezbollah’s military wing here in
Levitt, the author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of
Lebanon’s Party of God
, added: “The evidence of Hezbollah’s terrorist activities
easily hits the threshold of EU cp931, so discussions now surround issues
related to foreign policy and implementation.”
The EU’s cp931 working
group deals with counterterrorism and the listing of organizations as terror
The British member of the European Parliament, Charles Tannock,
widely considered a leading expert on Hezbollah and Iranian terrorism, tweeted
that he attended the closed parliament hearing on the blacklisting of Hezbollah,
noting that England and “most EU states” support sanctioning
Herb Keinon contributed to this report. Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.