Israel Thanks Australia for Blacklisting Hizbullah's Political Wing
Australia on Wednesday listed all of Hizbullah as a "terrorist organization," extending a ban on the armed wing to the entire movement, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that the Tehran-backed group "continues to threaten terrorist attacks and provide support to terrorist organizations" and poses a "real" and "credible" threat to Australia.
Some countries have sought to distinguish between Hizbullah's political and militant factions, fearing a blanket ban could further destabilize Lebanon and hamper contacts with authorities.
Australia had such a policy since 2003, when it banned Hizbullah's so-called External Security Organization -- a part of the movement's military wing that is chiefly focused on shadowy overseas operations.
From now, membership of the entire organization or providing funding for it will now be proscribed in Australia, which has a large Lebanese community.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked his "friend" and Australian counterpart Scott Morrison for the move.
"Hizbullah is an Iranian-backed terror organization in Lebanon responsible for countless attacks in Israel & around the world," he tweeted.
- 'Long overdue' -
No reason was given for the timing of Canberra's decision, which comes as Lebanon reels from spiraling political and economic crises.
The move may play well domestically for Australia's conservative government, ahead of its own elections expected next year.
Before 2018 polls, Morrison made the surprise move of recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, helping secure votes in a battleground Sydney seat with a sizable Jewish community.
Matthew Levitt, a former U.S. counter-terrorism financing official now with the Washington Institue for Near East policy, told AFP the move was "long overdue."
In June, he testified to the Australian parliament that the previous designation was "insufficient" adding that "Hizbullah is structured and operates as a singular organization."
"In recent years a laundry list of Hizbullah terrorist plots and illicit financial schemes have involved Australian citizens and/or activities on Australian soil," he said.
Australia's government also announced Wednesday that it would be listing far-right group "The Base" as a terror group.
"They are a violent, racist neo-Nazi group known by security agencies to be planning and preparing terrorist attacks," Andrews said.