Why the U.S. Is Pressuring Israel into an Agreement with Lebanon

Sept. 13 2022

On Saturday, the Lebanese foreign minister told reporters that a deal with Israel regarding the two countries’ maritime borders is “95-percent” complete. The deal, brokered by the U.S., would allow both countries to explore their offshore natural-gas supplies without conflict. Meanwhile, Hizballah—the Lebanon-based terrorist group with tens of thousands of missiles aimed at the Jewish state—has threatened to attack Israeli gas rigs if Jerusalem starts drilling in the Karish gas field before reaching an agreement with Beirut.

Both the threats and the negotiations, argues Tony Badran, must be understood in the context of a broader American strategy of propping up Lebanon, and its military, in the name of an illusory stability:

Lebanon is explicitly an Iranian holding, an economic basket case whose “government” and “army” are fronts for the Hizballah militia that is run directly from Tehran. . . . Yet the Biden administration has made it its mission to throw whatever money and resources it can muster in order to prop up and stabilize the Hizballah-controlled order in Lebanon—while involving itself at a . . . granular level in the micromanagement of Lebanon’s hopelessly mismanaged, Iranian-dominated energy and security sectors. In its obsessive pursuit of these priorities, the administration has pressured and cajoled U.S. allies, encouraging some to violate U.S. sanctions, concocting mechanisms to allow for the circumvention of U.S. laws, and destroying the integrity of U.S. foreign-assistance programs that must certify, among other things, that U.S. taxpayer funds are not being used to fund terrorists and terrorism.

In addition to entangling America’s Arab allies, the administration has also enmeshed Israel with its energy scheme, [so as] to turn Lebanon (that is to say, Hizballah) into an energy producer and perhaps exporter. The United States decided that the pathway to this nirvana . . . is the demarcation of Lebanon’s maritime border with Israel, which Washington therefore resolved to broker.

Should the Israeli government cave, as appears increasingly likely, team Biden’s gambit will have set the precedent of extracting concessions from Israel under the threat of attack leveraged by the United States on behalf of Iranian assets. Moreover, the gambit, by design, will turn Hizballah, and consequently Iran, into a player in eastern Mediterranean energy.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Iran, Israeli gas, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship