How Israel Became a Model for Ukraine

Last Tuesday, the Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelesnky declared that, when the war in Ukraine is finally over, his country will emerge as “a big Israel.” Lahav Harkov suggests that Zelensky meant, in part, that Ukraine will learn to “view its neighbors the way Israel has long viewed its own: as enemies waiting to pounce.” Harkov also highlights the significance of Zelensky’s repeated requests that Russians and Ukrainians meet in Jerusalem—not Washington, London, or Brussels—to hash out a peace agreement, and the difficult situation in which the war has put Israel.

On the one hand, the Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid has repeatedly condemned Russia’s attacks, and on Tuesday, while discussing the Bucha massacre, he accused Russia of “war crimes.” On the other, [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett has only expressed a more general sorrow about the loss of life. Reacting to the slaughter at Bucha, the Israeli prime minister said, “We are shocked by what we see in Bucha, horrible images, and we condemn them”—but he refrained from explicitly condemning Russia or Putin.

How did Israel end up walking this tightrope? In part, it’s because Israel exists to be a safe haven for Jews everywhere, and there are still nearly half a million in Ukraine and Russia. Israel wants to make sure it doesn’t alienate Putin—and complicate things for the Jewish community in his country. (Since the war began, over 10,000 Jews have applied to immigrate to Israel from Russia. The country has prepared to absorb as many as 100,000 refugees.)

But the bigger reason is waning American hegemony.

America’s post-Iraq war exhaustion with the Middle East led Israel to begin to see what Ukraine has just discovered: that it cannot rely on the assurances of an America that has turned inward—and away from the rest of the world. As the United States backed away from its “red line” in Syria and pursued a nuclear deal widely viewed in Israel as an existential threat, the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shifted Israel away from relying on the vaunted special relationship, forging new ones with China, India, and Russia, among others. Israel’s position in the Ukraine war has brought the Jewish state’s new geopolitical reality into stark relief.

Read more at Common Sense

More about: Naftali Bennett, Volodomyr Zelensky, War in Ukraine, Yair Lapid

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden