Biden Fears Israel ‘Rushing to War’ in Lebanon — Even Though Hezbollah Has Been Attacking for Eight Months

Hezbollah has escalated its aggression following Tuesday’s strike by the Israel Defense Force on the Hezbollah Nasser unit’s headquarters in southern Lebanon. A veteran commander, Taleb Sami Abdullah, was killed alongside three of his underlings.

AP/Bilal Hussein
A senior Hezbollah leader, Hashem Safieddine, center, prays over the coffin of Taleb Sami Abdullah, known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb, who was killed by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, during his funeral procession at the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, June 12, 2024. AP/Bilal Hussein

As Israelis in northern areas of the country beseech their government to end  Hezbollah’s eight months of military aggression, President Biden is reportedly concerned that Jerusalem is “rushing to war” in Lebanon, from which the terrorist organization operates. 

Hezbollah spokesmen say the organization has launched its “most extensive” attack on northern Israel Thursday, boasting that the group has hit 15 military bases in the Galilee region and the Golan. According to Israeli officials, two civilians were injured but not seriously, and while there was extensive property damage, no bases were hit.

Hezbollah attacks on Wednesday and Thursday followed Tuesday’s strike by the Israel Defense Force on the Hezbollah Nasser unit’s headquarters in southern Lebanon. A veteran commander, Taleb Sami Abdullah, was killed alongside three of his underlings. 

Widely known as Abu Taleb, the battalion commander was the highest-ranked officer to have perished since Hezbollah started its attacks on October 8. Abu Taleb was also reportedly a close associate of Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who has to date calibrated attacks to avoid all-out war. The Thursday assault, though, is seen as a significant escalation.  

In two days Hezbollah launched more than 200 missiles, anti-tank rockets, and explosive drones that triggered alert sirens as far south as Tiberias, the largest city on the Sea of Galilee. Farther north, projectiles coupled with early summer heat ignited flames, and firefighters struggled to douse burning fields. Livestock died, including at chicken farms that supply a sizable share of the country’s eggs. 

More than 80,000 citizens have been evacuated from northern Israel since October. Some of those who remain feel neglected. “The government has abandoned us,” a resident of the community of Dalton, Shirel Kamissa, told Channel 13 News on Thursday. 

As the IDF fights in Gaza, the government is reluctant to open a second front in the north. A full-fledged war with Hezbollah, Iran’s best-armed proxy, would entail major casualties all over Israel and have dire economic consequences.

“If there is a diplomatic solution, that is better” than an all-out war, a Knesset member who just left Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war cabinet, Benny Gantz, told Channel 12 news. As Washington and Paris work hard to reach a diplomatic solution, however, Israelis wonder if there is one to be reached.

“I don’t know what the government will do,” the founder of a northern Israel-based research institute, Alma, Sarit Zehavi, tells the Sun. “Everything here is on fire, people’s homes are gone, and all Biden wants is a cease-fire, regardless if it will give us security.”

Washington is “concerned about Israel rushing into a war with Hezbollah — or getting dragged into one — without a clear strategy or consideration of the full implications of a wider conflict,” an unidentified administration official told Axios Wednesday.

The concern, reportedly, is that if an ever-escalating tit-for-tat evolves into an all-out war in Lebanon, Iran would join forces with Hezbollah and engulf the entire region in conflict. A White House Mideast adviser, Amos Hochstein, has been shuttling in the region for months in an attempt to prevent such a scenario through diplomatic means.   

Briefing reporters on Thursday, an administration official traveling with Mr. Biden to Italy said that since October Washington has been talking to “Israel and Lebanon” — in reality, Hezbollah — “to keep this from developing into a full-out war that could have implications” elsewhere in the region. 

Yet, an increasing number of Israelis have grown leery of the Biden administration’s diplomacy. Israel quietly made significant concessions to Hamas in the hope of freeing hostages held in Gaza. Mr. Biden then detailed a version of Jerusalem’s plan in a White House speech that later evolved into a United Nations Security Council resolution. After two weeks of silence, Hamas gave its answer on Wednesday. 

Unfortunately, it was “not the yes that we were looking for,” Secretary Blinken told NBC Thursday. The only hindrance to a deal, he added, is Hamas’s Gaza commander, Yehya Sinwar. Gazans are “suffering every day,” the secretary said, “so if he has their interests at heart, he will come to a conclusion to bring this to a conclusion.” 

Mr. Blinken vowed to continue pushing the deal and made no deadline for Hamas to reply, likely leading Sinwar to conclude that time is on his side. “W/great respect to US diplomats, appealing to #Sinwar’s humanitarian instincts will have no impact,” a veteran Mideast observer, the Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff, writes on X. 

“Far better to make clear that failure to endorse ceasefire, without further haggling, will result in accelerated delivery of U.S. weapons to #Israel, offer for U.S. Corps of Engineers to join in technical efforts to cut all underground connections between #Gaza and #Sinai and arrest/extradition of #Hamas external leaders to stand trial in Israel,” Mr. Satloff writes. 

Israelis who say that diplomacy, rather than the military, will end the crisis in the north are increasingly discouraged by Washington’s failure to use American leverage in its diplomatic efforts to end the Gaza war.

The New York Sun

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