- US Ambassador-at-large Daniel Benjamin harshly criticized the European Union over the weekend for refusing to blacklist Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Speaking at a one-day conference in London, Benjamin described Hezbollah’s legal status in the EU as “undermin[ing] security goals” pursued by the US and its allies. The debate over designating Hezbollah is likely to reemerge in the wake of an anticipated report from Bulgarian officials describing the findings of their investigation into the July 2012 Burgas, Bulgaria bombing that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian. The attack has been widely linked to Hezbollah but France and Germany have resisted efforts to formally designate the Iran-backed terror group. Should Sofia formally link Hezbollah to the bombing, it may become difficult for French and German diplomats to explain why a terror attack on the sovereign soil of an EU member state that killed an EU citizen is insufficient to blacklist a group as a terror entity.
- Intrigue continues to swirl around events last week in which Israel appears to have targeted advanced Syrian anti-aircraft SA-17 missiles that Jerusalem suspected of being bound for Hezbollah. Inconclusive reports described strikes on both a convoy of the missiles and on a Syrian military facility. New reports based on Syrian television broadcasts indicate that the facility may have suffered damage from secondary explosions triggered when IAF jets destroyed the anti-aircraft batteries. Meanwhile some counter-terror analysts are emphasizing reports both that Israeli jets struck multiple targets inside Syria, and that the known targets are known to be linked to Syria’s chemical and biological weapons program.
- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu over the weekend lashed out at Israel over the reported strikes, urging the Bashar al-Assad regime – against which Turkey has been waging a two-year proxy war inside Syria – to retaliate against Jerusalem. Davutoglu, describe
d by US diplomatic cables as “exceptionally dangerous” and “lost in neo-Ottoman Islamist fantasies”, further suggested that the lack of a response from Damascus was evidence of a “secret” conspiracy between the regime and Israel, and indicated that Turkey itself might retaliate against Israel as a matter of Muslim solidarity. Foreign policy analyst Steven Cook described Davutoglu’s statements as “nothing short of irresponsible”, and Georgetown Israel Institute director Michael Koplow noted that they came as part of a pattern indicating that “the Turkish government for whatever reason is incapable of rational and level-headed behavior when it comes to Israel.”
- Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal used a recent speech, carried by Arabic-language media outlet Al-Hayat, to emphasize that Hamas will not accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel. His statement is in tension with recent second-hand leaks the effect that Mashaal was ready to compromise on Hamas’s commitment to the eradication of the Jewish state. The stance does however echo the statements last week of senior Hamas official Izzat al-Risheq, who described rumors that the group was ready to accept Israel as “baseless,” and of senior Hamas official Yahya Moussa, who emphasized that Hamas will not change its commitment to Israel’s destruction and its replacement with an Islamic state.