Monday

16th Sep 2019

Israeli leader urges EU to blacklist Hezbollah

  • Pro-Hezbollah flag in Paris in 2008: fund-raising for the group in the EU would become illegal if it gets listed (Photo: looking4poetry)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Italy's foreign minister the EU should designate Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. But EU diplomats are wary of the move.

"There is one ... effort that I think Europe could make to advance the cause of security and peace, and that is to declare Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation. It is exactly that. It's the world's leading terror organisation, and Europe could contribute much by declaring it for what it is," he said at a meeting with Italy's Giulio Terzi in Jerusalem on Wednesday (5 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The statement is the latest in a campaign to EU-list the Lebanese group after Israel and the US blamed it for bombing Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria in July.

Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman at the time asked Cyprus, the current EU presidency, to start talks on the decision.

US state department counter-terrorism chief, Daniel Benjamin, was in August cited in the New York Times as saying: "We assess that Hezbollah could attack in Europe or elsewhere at any time with little or no warning."

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a Washington-based lobby with an office in the EU capital, last month also sent letters to EU foreign ministers pleading for the step. "No matter who carried out this atrocity [Burgas] on European Union territory, the EU's continued refusal to put Hezbollah on its terror list is simply indefensible," its Brussels chief, Daniel Schwammenthal, said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal at the time.

Meanwhile, a senior EU diplomatic source told EUobserver that Netanyahu did not give Italy's Terzi any evidence that Hezbollah did the Burgas bombing.

Echoing the Cypriot foreign minister, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who in July told Lieberman there is "no [EU] consensus" on whether to list Hezbollah, the source noted that: "Any decision needs to be discussed in depth at EU level. It's not a decision to be taken at national level."

He added: "It should be discussed in a general context of the balance of EU foreign policy, one has to consider all the factors inside Lebanon."

Another senior EU diplomatic contact told this website that Hezbollah is not on the agenda at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Cyprus on Friday. But he noted that talks on Syria are likely to stray onto Hezbollah at the informal event.

The contact said any EU decision will be taken at two levels: technical and political.

One one hand, EU countries' counter-terrorism specialists, who meet regularly at the EU Council in Brussels and who recommend actions to ministers, are waiting for their Bulgarian colleagues to say what happened in Burgas.

On the other hand, ministers will take into account the political implications for EU relations with Arab countries and for Middle East stability in general.

"Whoever calls out Hezbollah is likely to face consequences in terms of the perceptions about them in Lebanon. European nations need to make some strategic considerations. But the most important thing is to wait for the [Burgas] evidence," the EU diplomatic contact noted.

Hezbollah is the dominant military force in Lebanon and the political party of Shia Muslims in the south and east of the fragile country.

It is also admired in the wider Arab world as the only Arab force which recently inflicted military defeat on Israel, the regional superpower, after forcing its withdrawal from Lebanon in the 2006 war.

The BBC in August quoted Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, as saying that an EU terrorist listing: "Would dry up [our] sources of finance, end moral, political and material support, stifle ... the voices which support the resistance [against Israeli occupation of Palestine]."

For his part, David Hirst, a noted British writer on the Middle East who has lived in Beirut for the past 50 years, told EUobserver by phone on Thursday that listing Hezbollah would "primarily serve American and Israeli interests."

"It is an open question whether Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. But it certainly has a much broader political and social dimension [in Lebanon] which can't be separated from its military activities," he said.

He added that Israel's effort to stigmatise the group overlooks its own track record.

"In the 2006 war, the Israelis accused Hezbollah of using civilian areas to launch missiles which hit civilian targets in Israel. But subsequent investigations by [US and British NGOs] Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International showed that they did not typically or systematically use civilian areas ... They certainly hit civilian areas in Israel. But they were firing back at Israeli sources of fire and a high proportion of their targets were [Israeli] Arab because Israel was putting its own firing positions near Arab villages," Hirst said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Israel in the 34-day war killed 1,125 Lebanese people, including at least 501 civilians, 300 of whom were women and children. It says Hezbollah killed 119 Israeli soldiers and 40 civilians.

"You could argue that Hezbollah has in the past operated on a higher moral plane than Israel, which raises the question: can Israel itself be classified as a terrorist entity?" he added.

"In my view, Israel is a terrorist state just as much as Hezbollah is a terrorist militia. But I doubt my point of view would gain much sympathy in the EU's counter-terrorism group."

Middle East risks becoming a 'giant failed state'

With EU countries crafting plans on how to shape events in Syria, David Hirst, a noted writer on the Middle East, has warned that the Arab uprisings are out of Western control.

Former CIA officer questions EU motives in Syria

EU and US intervention in Syria is designed to harm Iran and to protect Israel and Lebanese Christians, not Syrian people, according to Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer with experience of the region.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

News in Brief

  1. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  2. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  3. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  4. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  5. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  6. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  7. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election
  8. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us