Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday commended the European Union on its decision to have Hezbollah’s military wing declared a terror organization.
“I welcome the fact that the EU has declared Hezbollah to be a terror group and I thank Europe’s heads of states. In recent years the State of Israel invested great efforts to explain to the EU member states that Hezbollah is a terrorist group of the Iranian regime, a terror organization that carries out attacks across the world,” said Netanyahu.
“Recently, it [Hezbollah] has tried to perpetrate dozens of attacks, some of which succeeded, in Asia, Africa, American and Europe, including the criminal murder in Bulgaria and the attack that was foiled in Cyprus. At the same time, thousands of members of this terror group are committing war crimes every day in the war in Syria and are taking part in the slaughter that is going on there, alongside Assad’s forces, which have so far killed 100,000 innocent civilians.”
Netanyahu made clear that as far as Israel is concerned, Hezbollah is one organization, with no difference between its various arms. “It is terrorizing wide areas of Lebanon, turning them into areas under Iranian sponsorship and storing in them tens of thousands of rockets. These are placed in the heart of the civilian population, and are intended for firing at Israel’s population centers. I hope that implementing the decision will lead to real steps against the organization,” he concluded.
Other Israeli politicians and Jewish organizations also voiced approval of the Eu’s decision, though many said the decision did not go far enough and called for Europe’s foreign council to blacklist the Lebanese group’s political arm as well.
President Shimon Peres called the move “smart and necessary,” and said it would prevent the expansion of terrorism in Europe and across the world. “Your decision sends a message to terror organizations and terror-sponsoring states,” he added.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the tightening of the ring around Hezbollah will aid the fight against the organization and its senders. “It is good that there is an agreement among European states on this issue. Hezbollah is a dangerous and ruthless terrorist organization, that has never hesitated and will never hesitate to carry out murderous attacks across Europe, under the sponsorship of Iran,” said Ya’alon.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the decision would unmask the terror group, which attempted to provide a legitimate face through its political organization. “Finally, after years of discussions and deliberations, [they] have failed, and rightly so, in their attempt to claim that they are a legitimate political party,” she said.
Now the world knows that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, added Livni. The “just and correct decision” shows that even if Hezbollah also functions as a political party, it can’t launder its terrorist activities behind that, she said.
“The Europeans are satisfied with their usual half-measures and inadequate, partial decisions,” said former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who now heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah are “two sides of the same coin,” he said. The organization has two arms, which belong to the same person, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Liberman said, adding that the attempt to frame the organization as having some extreme and some moderate branches is akin to saying that one person can be both a cannibal and a vegetarian.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision, which it said would “disrupt operations of Hezbollah’s military wing in the European Union,” but also called on the EU to blacklist the group’s political wing as well.
“We now call on EU Member States to take the next logical step and proscribe the whole organization of Hezbollah, as the division between the military and political wings is clearly artificial,” said Alex Brummer, head of the board’s International Division.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin told Israel Radio that the vote was the result of many years of work by the Foreign Ministry.
Veteran lawmaker and minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) praised the decision and called it “hugely significant.” The EU decision, he said, would have a “very heavy effect on the activities of a terrorist organization that masquerades as a political party.”
The EU designation of Hezbollah as a terror organization is something that “has needed to happen for some time,” Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said.
However, he also struck out at the EU for its recent decision to cut ties with Israeli organization operating over the Green Line.
“[Europe should] fight against terrorism instead of those who fight against terror,” he said at his Jewish Home Knesset faction meeting.