U.S. Envoy Amos Hochstein Arrives in Mideast to Discourage War in Lebanon

Amos Hochstein and Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem, June 17, 2024. (Amos Ben-Gershom
Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO

U.S. Special Envoy Amos Hochstein met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday as he tried to push Israel and Lebanon to avoid a war that Hezbollah has expanded in recent weeks by firing at northern Israel.

Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror organization, is attacking Israel from southern Lebanon, in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1707, which ended a war in 2006 and which bars the group from the border.

Hochstein brokered a deal in 2022 in which Lebanon was given Israeli offshore gas fields in the Mediterranean in the hope that it would deter Hezbollah, which dominates the Lebanese government, from attacking Israel in the future.

But after the Hamas terror attack of October 7, Hezbollah began firing rockets, anti-tank missiles, and explosive drones at Israel, killing both soldiers and civilians, forcing the evacuation of 60,000 residents from Israel’s northern border towns, and causing wildfires that have scorched the countryside nearby.

Israel has responded by attacking the sources of fire, and killing Hezbollah commanders, but says it is prepared to go to war to restore calm in the north.

“The current state of affairs is not a sustainable reality,” said David Mencer, spokesman for the Israeli government, in a press briefing Monday.

Mencer said that Hezbollah had fired over 5,000 projectiles at northern Israel since October. He reminded reporters that there was no legitimate cause for Hezbollah to attack Israel, and for Lebanon to allow it to do so. “There is no territorial dispute between Lebanon and Israel,” he said, alluding to the fact that the United Nations had confirmed the border between Lebanon and Israel after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

Israel has warned repeatedly that Hezbollah’s actions will lead to a broader war. On Sunday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari released a video statement in English warning of the impending war:

Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation – one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the entire region.

One way or another – we will ensure the safe and secure return of Israelis to their homes in Northern Israel. That is not up for negotiation.

In October, President Joe Biden appeared to warn Hezbollah and Iran against expanding the war that Hamas began in southern Israel, saying “don’t.” However, that warning appears to have been forgotten, amid U.S. pressure on Israel to slow its war effort in Gaza. Some Israeli critics have observed wryly that “don’t” appears to apply to Israel.

For the two decades before, Israel had maintained a “security zone” near the border in southern Lebanon to prevent terrorists from firing rockets at its northern border communities. It withdrew unilaterally in 2000, hoping for calm.

In 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped and killed several Israeli soldiers, leading to a war for which Israel — without Iron Dome — was unprepared. The war ended in a stalemate — and Iran has continued to build up Hezbollah’s forces.

Hochstein’s proposal is reportedly that Israel should withdraw from a strategically important point on its own soil, Har Dov, in exchange for calm. But such a withdrawal would allow Hezbollah to threaten all of northern Israel.

Hochstein met with Netanyahu and several other senior officials, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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