Situation in the Middle East
Delivered in Plenary - 6th September 2006
The recent conflict between Israel and Hizbollah is a tragedy for Israel and the people of Lebanon. For some time, many of us in this House have been campaigning for the EU to declare Hizbollah a terrorist organisation. It is clear that Hizbollah seriously miscalculated the scale of the retribution when it decided to kill eight soldiers and kidnap two from northern Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, its leader, has admitted as much.
Hizbollah has a lot of explaining to do as to why its deliberate provocation has caused so much damage to Lebanese infrastructure, with the deaths of so many Lebanese civilians. This is partly explained by Hizbollah’s outrageous tactic of using human shields to launch its rockets from civilian-populated areas. Israel also seems to have made the mistake of believing that air power alone was sufficient to dislodge Hizbollah, whereas what was required were more boots on the ground. Clearly, Israeli intelligence underestimated Hizbollah’s training and equipment, in particular high-tech Russian anti-tank and anti-ship weapons. Russia must now explain how its weapons ended up in the hands of an Islamist fundamentalist militia.
My main concern now following UN Security Council Resolution 1701 relates to who is finally going to disarm Hizbollah. Madam Commissioner, what safeguards are in place to prevent the millions of euros of EU aid and reconstruction money from being diverted to Hizbollah through one of its so-called charities? We remember in the past all the allegations of graft when there was direct EU budgetary aid to the Palestinian Authority under Arafat. I also want to know what will prevent troops from Muslim countries like Malaysia and Bangladesh, which do not recognise the State of Israel, from turning a blind eye to the rearmament of Hizbollah.
Lastly, I believe the time has now come under the roadmap for peace to prise brutal but rational and secular Syria away from theocratic, fundamentalist Iran. The EU could offer significant trade and aid benefits to Syria to bring it back to the negotiating table with Israel.