The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reports that Israel recruited former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to help convince Austria of the need to add Hezbollah to the European Union's list of terrorist entities.
As TheBlaze reported on Monday, the 28 members of the EU voted unanimously to ban the "military wing" of the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group. While Britain and the Netherlands had been pushing their counterparts for months to freeze the assets of and ban travel for members of the Islamist group, Austria was one of the countries holding out on the terrorist designation.
Ma'ariv's Eli Bardenstein reports [Hebrew link] that the Hollywood star wrote a letter to Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann asking him to support the EU proposal.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (File Photo: AP/Chris Pizzello)
According to Ma'ariv, appeals from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres did not sway the Austrians, but the letter from Schwarzenegger apparently did. The former California governor grew up in Austria, served in the Austrian Army and from there went on to win the bodybuilding Mr. Universe championship.
Though quotes from the letter were not revealed, Arutz 7 cites other reports which said that Schwarzenegger "referred to the group's incessant rocket attacks against Israel. Given its history [in World War II], Schwarzenegger is said to have written, Austria had a responsibility to Israel to help its people live in peace, regardless of the politics of the region."
The right-wing news site Arutz 7 is calling Schwarzenegger "Israel's Hero" while the Jewish website The Tablet headlined its article on the reported partnership "Israel Teams Up With Terminator to Fight Terror," writing:
This is not the Governator's first foray into pro-Israel activism. The Jewish state was the first country Schwarzenegger visited after being elected governor, and he has described his feelings towards it as "love at first sight." As California governor, he signed a bill that divested state pension funds from companies linked to Iran.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman shed more light on Austria's opposition to listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group. He wrote on his Facebook page Monday that the agreement came only after Austria lifted its opposition to the move, "not because it was convinced Hezbollah is a terrorist group...not because of the Bulgarian security services' conclusion about the  murder of Israelis in [the Bulgarian vacation destination] Burgas and not because of the Cyprus court's decision that Hezbollah stood behind an attempted terror attack on Israelis on the island, rather because of Hezbollah's activities in Syria and the threats to Austrian forces in Syria which prompted Austria to remove its troops from UNDOF."
The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force [UNDOF] was set up in 1974 to monitor the ceasefire on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria after the 1967 Six Day War. In June, Austria announced it would withdraw its troops from the UN mission after Syrian rebels attacked the border crossing at Quneitra.
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki congratulated the EU on its decision. "We applaud the EU for the important step it has taken today in agreeing to designate Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organization. This sends a strong message to Hezbollah that it cannot operate with impunity, and that there are consequences for its actions," she said Monday according to a transcript of the State Department press briefing.
"This designation will have a significant impact on Hezbollah's ability to operate freely in Europe by enabling European law enforcement agencies to crack down on Hezbollah's fundraising, logistical activity and terrorist plot on European soil," Psaki added. In 1997, the U.S. designated Hezbollah as a "foreign terrorist organization" and does not distinguish between the military and political wings of the group.
While Israel also applauded the EU move, some officials voiced concern that the designation did not cover the terrorist organization in its entirety.