Will Europe Put an End to Hizballah’s Operations on Its Soil?

Last week, Hussein Bassam Abdallah pled guilty to involvement in a terrorist plot in Cyprus, where he was hiding 8.2 tons of ammonium nitrate intended for attacking Israeli and Jewish targets on the island and smuggling the remainder to Hizballah operatives throughout Europe. Matthew Levitt cites this as evidence of how little has been accomplished by EU’s July 2013 ban on Hizballah’s military wing but not on the organization in general:

Not only did Hizballah actively maintain an explosives stockpile in Cyprus, the group retained the operatives, infrastructure, and reach to engage in operations across Europe. Over the course of the time Abdallah maintained this explosives stockpile, Hizballah remained active across Europe, from a 2012 bombing thwarted in Greece to the arrest and deportation of a Hizballah operative in Denmark in 2013 who arrived on a commercial ship for purposes still unknown. . . . Germany’s domestic intelligence agency recently reported that Hizballah maintains some 950 active operatives in the country. . . .

When the EU banned Hizballah’s military wing, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius pledged, “There’s no question of accepting terrorist organizations in Europe.” Now, as Europe marked the third anniversary of the July 18 Hizballah bus bombing in Bulgaria, there is abundant evidence that Hizballah is doing just that: engaging in terrorist activities in Europe.

In other words, the EU banned part of Hizballah and warned it to cease activities in Europe, and Hizballah promptly called Brussels’ bluff. Which leaves us with a question for Fabius: will the EU accept a terrorist organization operating in Europe?

Read more at Daily Beast

More about: Cyprus, European Union, Hizballah, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security