US Jewish leaders: EU Hezbollah stance a mistake

Leadership of Jewish Organizations express "deep disappointment" for EU failure to list Lebanese organization as a terrorists.

Hezbollah march, fighters 370 (photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
Hezbollah march, fighters 370
(photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
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.
“We’re 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.
Bulgaria 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 French Jews.
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 action.
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 discussed.
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 openended.
“An end to talks needs to be defined and the consequences, such as sanctions and others, have to be felt,” Hoenlein said.
Asked 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 Presidents.
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 campuses.
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.”
He added that the Conference had initiated a Lawfare Project program to help deal with this issue.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.