American Military Commander Tells Israel It’s Unlikely To Help Against Iran-Backed Hezbollah

Prime Minister Netanyahu says in an hour-long interview that ‘the intense phase of the war is about to end in Rafah,’ after which ‘we will face north.’

AP/Susan Walsh, file
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General CQ Brown, at Arlington National Cemetery, May 27, 2024. AP/Susan Walsh, file

TEL AVIV — Even as war with Hezbollah seems closer than ever, America’s top military officer, General CQ Brown of the Air Force, is telling Israel: “You are on your own.” 

America “won’t likely be able to help Israel defend itself against a broader Hezbollah war as well as it helped Israel fight off an Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April,” General Brown, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters Monday while visiting Botswana in Africa.

When Iran attacked Israel on April 14, America and other allies, including Arab countries, helped intercept the incoming projectiles. No Israeli casualties were recorded as the Israeli air force and missile defense systems, along with those of the allied countries, supplied an almost air-tight aerial umbrella.

Much of that night’s success was because the Islamic Republic’s missiles had to travel a long distance to Israel from Iran, allowing ample time to identify trajectories and intercept them. “It is harder to fend off the shorter-range rockets that Hezbollah fires routinely across the border into Israel,” General Brown said, according to the Associated Press. 

That military assessment fits Washington’s persistent attempts at preventing an all-out Israel-Hezbollah war. With Hezbollah constantly escalating its attacks, Jerusalem officials increasingly are saying that the situation at the Lebanese border is unsustainable. 

An Israeli soldier was critically injured on Monday morning during an attack on the town of Metula. More than 70,000 Israelis are out of their homes in the northern and western Galilee, and tens of thousand live in fear.

Until now, most of Israel’s military efforts have been in Gaza. Yet, “the intense phase of the war is about to end in Rafah,” after which “we will face north,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday in an hour-long interview on Channel 14. 

One of the first meetings that the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, conducted at Washington after he landed Monday was with a top White House adviser and envoy to Lebanon, Amos Hochstein. The two officials reportedly discussed the prospects of war-averting diplomacy. 

Israel is willing to give a chance to a diplomatic solution that would end Hezbollah’s threat, Mr. Netanyahu said in his rare Hebrew-language television interview. Yet, he added, any pact “must be on our terms,” he said. To date, nevertheless, Hezbollah’s demands to avert a war include taking over disputed strategic areas held by Israel, even as the terror organization refuses to withdraw from areas it holds in violation of past agreements.  

The north Israel-based Alma center recently issued a map of Hezbollah’s territorial demands in negotiations with Mr. Hochstein. One includes the takeover of seven villages in the Galilee, which the United Nations-mapped border, known as the “blue line,” determined are inside Israel. Populated by Shiite Muslims in the decades prior to the 1948 foundation of Israel, the villages have been emptied of residents for more than 70 years. 

Other Hezbollah demands include gaining control of a strategic high point on the border between the western Galilee town of Rosh Hanikra and southern Lebanon’s Naqoura. Hezbaollah also wants the strategic Israeli-controlled plateau of Shaba farms, or Mount Dov, which was part of Syria before 1967, to be transferred to Lebanon. 

Such demands are nonstarters as far as Israel is concerned. Yet, as November’s elections in America near, a major Mideast war, which according to Washington’s assessments could also involve Iran, is extremely unattractive for President Biden’s re-election efforts. Of course, Tehran has its own agenda.

Iran would join the war, General Brown said, “particularly if they felt that Hezbollah was being significantly threatened.” Israelis see it differently, assessing that the Iranians are directing the entire war that their proxies are conducting to harass and eventually end the Jewish state.

While Jerusalem and Washington seem divided over the level of America’s military assistance to Israel, the Islamic Republic arms Hezbollah to the teeth. Last July the Lebanese transportation minister, Ali Hamieh, ordered the construction of a new terminal at Beirut’s international airport, to be solely controlled by Hezbollah, Alma’s Tal Beeri wrote at the time. 

Over the weekend the British Telegraph reported that Hezbollah is using the Beirut airport to store “large quantities of weapons” sent from Iran. On Monday Mr. Hamieh conducted a tour of the airport for reporters and foreign diplomats. “The airport is safe, and there are no arms here,” he said. Yet, reporters complained that they were blocked from visiting a building marked as a “cargo center.”  

Officially, the Beirut airport is named after a slain Lebanese president, Rafiq Hariri. Yet, it is now “the Qassem Soleimani airport,” a Lebanese commentator, Fadi al Ahmad, sarcastically said Monday. 

Referring to Lebanon as under the thumb of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards indicates that an increasing number of Lebanese dread a war that would devastate Lebanon even more than Israel. 

Domestic political pressure on Hezbollah to back down is growing. Yet, an American-Israeli rift seems to be encouraging the terror organization and its patrons to escalate.

The New York Sun

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