Should Hezbollah Fret Over Europe?

The European Union was quick to condemn Hezbollah in words but when it comes to action, it will be more difficult to get a consensus vote on sanctions from the 27-member organization.

Adar Primor
Adar Primor
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Adar Primor
Adar Primor

Here we go again: Europe is being deceitful. President Shimon Peres’ visit to the institutions of the European Union turned into an exceptional show of sympathy. The European Parliament − the same rebellious institution that often serves as the arena for the provocations of some of its members − seemed for a moment to be the home of hundreds of Lovers of Zion. Even on the complicated matter he chose to emphasize, adding Hezbollah to the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, Peres managed to create a change, according to his confidantes.

But not everyone is buying this version. The Lebanese newspaper L’Orient Le Jour, for example, determined that “Israel failed in Brussels, Hezbollah has no reason to worry.” Even the fact that Bulgaria recently blamed the organization and placed the responsibility for the Burgas terror bombing on Hezbollah − “The Bulgarians proved they have more than just cheese; they have balls too,” as one senior Israeli official said − has failed to make a dent in the European position. The new reports that expose the increased activity of Hezbollah in the EU and all over the world did not help sway Europe; nor did the group’s cooperation with the murderous regime of Assad. “We still do not have enough evidence,” stated the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, in a meeting with Peres.

Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s Counter-terrorism Coordinator, chose on his part to let the cat out of his legalistic bag: In an interview that reverberated in its honesty he declared: “There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack. It’s not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it’s also a political assessment of the context and the timing,” said de Kerchove.

The fear that the Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a member, might fall is the main reason for the Europeans’ stance. The “boomerang effect” is their most nightmarish scenario, one in which Hezbollah becomes even more extremist and takes over the entire country. In these nightmares they envision the deterioration of Lebanon leading to attacks on UNIFIL soldiers and bringing about not only the destabilization of the Middle East but also of Europe with its Muslim communities and Hezbollah sleeper terrorist cells.

But even given all those concerns the Europeans are aware how problematic a number of their claims are: The Americans, and also Canada and the Netherlands, have declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and the Lebanese government still stands. There is no reason that the trick of boycotting the bad guys in the government on the one hand while continuing to conduct a dialogue with its legitimate members on the other hand, will not work in the case of the Europeans.

The Europeans emphasize that Hezbollah’s political and social activities make it difficult to boycott. But when asked why then they put Hamas on their blacklist, they have no answer.

While Europe does worry about the boomerang effect, it does not dismiss the claim that Hezbollah has never needed excuses to attack, and that ignoring its terrorist activities is actually likely to accelerate them.

The French in particular are worried that any move might destabilize the “Land of Cedars.” They want to preserve their sphere of influence, but that has not prevented them from acting decisively against radical Islam in Africa.

In light of the weakness of its claims, Europe is expected to propose a formula that will be adapted to the final Bulgarian investigative report when it is presented. The minimalist proposal will include sanctions against those responsible for the Burgas bombing. In the maximalist approach, the entire organization will be declared a “terrorist organization.” And the British compromise proposal will lead to the boycotting of only the “military wing” of Hezbollah.

This is of course an artificial solution. Hezbollah in the disguise of the IRA. But unlike the situation in Northern Ireland there is no division into wings in the “God’s Party.” Everything there bows to a single leadership. But in the European reality, where a consensus of 27 countries is needed, even a masked ball is a reason for a party.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (center), escorted by his bodyguards, greets his supporters at an anti-U.S. protest in Beirut's southern suburbs, Sept. 17, 2012.Credit: Reuters