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December 6, 2018 10:39 am

What About the Diplomatic Angle Against Hezbollah?

avatar by Ron Prosor / JNS.org

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Hezbollah terrorists on parade. Photo: File.

JNS.orgThe operation to neutralize Hezbollah’s attack tunnels is a tactical achievement, and a technological and intelligence success for the IDF. 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 no.

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 to transfer millions of euros to Lebanon every year.

While Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist group in the United States and even some Arab League member-states, it can act in Europe 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. But the organization can’t be separated in two — any funds going to the political wing will benefit the military wing.

This same European license enables Hezbollah to operate a crime network throughout the European 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.

Last week, I took part in a special event at the German parliament, where the Abba Eban Institute presented findings from research we conducted last year that exposed Hezbollah’s activities across Europe. We intend to broaden this campaign in an effort to put an end to Europe’s artificial differentiation between the political and military wing, and have the entire group labeled a terrorist organization.

By abandoning the diplomatic angle, Israel has not used all the tools at its disposal to fight Hezbollah, and the 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.

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