By Benjamin Weinthal, Berlin-based Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Reviewed by James Abrahamson, contributing editor
From Benjamin Weinthal’s base in Berlin, he perceives that the European Union’s decades-long opposition to banning Hezbollah appears to be softening. Despite the appeals by three American presidents, that shift may result from other events: First, the conviction in France of an Israeli Arab linked to Hezbollah; the terrorist group’s July bombing of a busload of Israeli tourists in Burgas (Bulgaria); and the arrest of a dual Swedish-Lebanese member of Hezbollah plotting to murder Israeli tourists in Cyprus —the Cypriot trial prompting a three-judge panel to issue an 80-page decision in March describing “the reach of Hezbollah’s activities across Europe” from “London to Amsterdam to Lyon.”
Events beyond the EU may be a second influence prompting France and Germany, Europe’s most “recalcitrant members” to reconsider their positions on Hezbollah. Bahrain, for instance, recently became the first Arab government to outlaw the terrorist group upon discovery that it was training insurgents seeking the overthrow the small kingdom’s ruler, who is closely allied with Saudi Arabia. The “steady steam of [Hezbollah] caskets returning to Lebanon from Syria provides ample evidence of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad.
With Washington pressing, France and Germany now seem ready to ban at least Hezbollah’s “military wing.” As it becomes increasingly clear that no such distinction truly exists and that Hezbollah threatens the security of Europe, the Persian Gulf, and the wider Middle East, the 27-member EU may impose a full ban dealing the terrorist group a “morally symbolic blow,” disrupting its European fund raising operation, and enabling the West to speak with one voice.