(photo credit: AP)
Placing Hizbullah on the EU list of terrorist organizations will be one of the top issues Israel will raise with French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he meets Israeli leaders, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to visit France and Britain sometime over the summer.
Former French president Jacques Chirac was seen as the major hindrance in getting the 27-nation European Union to include Hizbullah on its terror blacklist, a move that would hurt the organizations' fund-raising capabilities.
Jerusalem has long believed that Chirac's opposition to placing Hizbullah on the list was not due to an affinity for the organization. Rather, Israeli sources believe, he was concerned that Hizbullah would retaliate by targeting Lebanese Christians, for whom Chirac felt an enormous sense of responsibility.
To what extent Sarkozy will become involved in Lebanese affairs remains unknown. Chirac took a hands-on interest in Lebanon. Sarkozy, at least in his first year in office, is expected to occupy himself with domestic French issues.
Chirac was a close personal friend of Lebanon's assassinated former prime minister Rafik Hariri. When Chirac left office earlier this month, he and his wife moved temporarily to an apartment overlooking the Seine owned by Hariri's family.
According to assessments in Israel, Chirac also didn't want to place Hizbullah on the EU terror list because he didn't want to provoke the organization's wrath against French interests in the country.
By contrast, according to an article posted on The New Republic's Web site Monday, Sarkozy referred to Hizbullah as a "terrorist organization" in a private meeting he held with American Jewish leaders in September.
While Israel will place Hizbullah on the agenda of its talks with Sarkozy in the near future, it has already begun engaging the British government on an issue that is far less significant, but also irksome for the government - the continuing calls for boycotts from various British trade unions.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met British Ambassador Tom Phillips on Monday to register Israel's concern about boycott calls coming from various British unions. The meeting came two days before the University and College Union is to meet in southern England and debate a proposal to boycott Israeli academics.
This meeting comes fast on the heels of proposals by Britain's national union of journalists, by a group of British doctors and a group of architects to boycott Israel.
According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Livni expressed Israel's unhappiness with this trend and said it was likely to negatively impact on public opinion in both countries. She said the boycott calls were in stark contrast to the positive relationship that existed between the two countries.
Phillips, according to the statement, repeated his government's position that it was opposed to boycotts, and believed boycotts and sanctions are not the way to help Israel and the Palestinians move forward. During the meeting, Phillips pointed out the number of programs the British Council carries out in an effort to strengthen ties between the British and Israelis.
Government sources in Jerusalem said it was important that the British people hear that their government is opposed to boycotts of Israel. The fact Livni met with Phillips, the sources said, rather than sending a lower-level diplomatic official, showed just how seriously Israel views the problem.