'Hezbollah will gain immunity without EU blacklist'

Israeli official: J'lem to tell EU that without strong reaction to Burgas attack, Hezbollah will get message that it can attack with impunity.

Bulgaria Victims (370) (photo credit: Channel 10)
Bulgaria Victims (370)
(photo credit: Channel 10)
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 weeks.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Wednesday evening with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boiko Borisov, and thanked him for the “professional and thorough” investigation.
Netanyahu said the findings were clear and prove that Hezbollah was directly responsible for the “atrocity in Burgas.”
Netanyahu said this was yet more evidence that Iran and its proxies are waging a global terrorist campaign spanning countries and continents.
“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.
National Security 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 there.
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 matter.
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.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, dismissed Bulgaria’s findings and said they were part of an Israeli smear campaign.
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.”
Similar 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 consequences.”
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 concluded.
Some 15 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million population are Muslim, mostly a centuriesold community dating from the time of Turkish rule.
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 report.