Israel lauds Austrian parliament for urging action against Hezbollah

Resolution passed unanimously calls on government to fight ‘terrorist and criminal activity’ by Austrian supporters of Lebanese group, inspire ‘reassessment’ within EU

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Austrian parliament session in Vienna, Austria, January 10, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP)
The Austrian parliament session in Vienna, Austria, January 10, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP)

Israel on Sunday hailed the Austrian parliament’s resolution urging the government in Vienna and the European Union to step up its actions against Hezbollah.

“This is an important decision against Hezbollah. I hope that the Austrian government will adopt their parliament’s decision and will join the UK, Germany and the Netherlands who have all recognized Hezbollah in its entirety as a terror organization,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement.

The non-binding motion, proposed by two lawmakers from the ruling People’s Party and its junior coalition partner the Greens, passed unanimously on Friday afternoon. It calls on the Austrian government to take “appropriate and effective measures to decisively act against terrorist and criminal activity by supporters of Hezbollah in Austria with all measures available to the state.”

The resolution further calls on Vienna to do more to fight the Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed group’s money-laundering mechanism.

Finally, the motion urges the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to “inspire a reassessment of the question of how to deal with Hezbollah within the EU.”

In the resolution’s introductory text, its authors, Reinhold Lopatka and Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, reaffirm Austria’s “historical responsibility” for Israel and that the Jewish state’s right to exist must never be questioned.

“To guarantee the safety of the State of Israel in the future, the EU must again deal with Hezbollah, whose military wing has been considered a terrorist organization by the EU since 2013 and whose military activities threaten Israel’s security,” they wrote.

All speakers at Friday’s parliament session ahead of the vote agreed that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and that the division into a political and a military wing is false, especially since the organization itself doesn’t make such a distinction.

A child in tiny military fatigues waves the Hezbollah flag as supporters of the group’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wait for his televised speech in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 following the US airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

On April 30, the German government officially announced that it was outlawing Hezbollah activities, no longer differentiating between the group’s military and political wings. The move followed a Bundestag resolution calling on the government in Berlin to “decree an activity ban against Hezbollah in order not to tolerate any activity in Germany by representatives of the organization, which opposes the principle of international understanding.”

That resolution passed in December with a large majority.

Austria has in recent years become one of Israel’s staunchest supporters within the EU, blocking, together with Hungary, several attempts to condemn Jerusalem’s plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

But on Friday, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told reporters that Vienna is opposed to those plans, stressing that the “unilateral expansion of territory is against international law and numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council since 1967.”

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