(December 5, 2018 / JNS)
The operation to neutralize Hezbollah’s attack tunnels is a tactical achievement and technological and intelligence success for the Israel Defense Forces. But alongside these accolades, we must also ask if Israel is doing everything in its power to weaken the terrorist organization in the long term. The answer, unfortunately, is that is isn’t.
Israeli officials do not understand that military operations on our northern border are not enough to weaken Hezbollah. These actions, as successful as they may be, will only reap short-term achievements. We saw this following the Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah took a major hit but quickly regained its strength and is now stronger than it has ever been.
If Israel genuinely wants to weaken Hezbollah in the long-term, it must consolidate a three-pronged strategy that relies on intelligence, military efforts and diplomacy. As it stands, the absence of the diplomatic angle allows Hezbollah to act unfettered in Europe and transfer millions of euros to Lebanon from there every year.
While Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist group in the United States and even some Arab League member-states, in Europe it acts without constraint.
The Europeans made the decision to artificially differentiate between Hezbollah’s military wing, which it classifies as a terrorist organization, and its political wing, which has been given license to act as if it was a separate body. This same European license enables Hezbollah to operate a crime network throughout the continent that engages in drug-trafficking and money-laundering, and uses the profits of these activities to fund terrorist activities on Lebanon’s border with Israel and throughout the entire world.
This is where my team at the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the IDC Herzliya and myself have taken action. Last week, I took part in a special event at the German parliament, where we presented findings from research we conducted last year that exposed Hezbollah’s activities across Europe.
I intend to broaden this campaign in an effort to put an end to this artificial differentiation and have the entire Hezbollah organizations labeled a terrorist organization, because it is only by cutting off the flow of funds from Europe to Lebanon that Hezbollah will truly be weakened in the long run.
By abandoning the diplomatic angle, we have allowed incidents such as what we witnessed on the Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page on Monday, when it wrote that the Shi’ite organization is classified as a terrorist organization in Europe, to happen. While a page with inaccurate messaging harms Israel’s public diplomacy efforts, a lack of diplomatic action harms Israel’s national security.
Ron Prosor is head of the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations.