Reaffirming the Ground Rules for the U.S.-Israel Alliance

Last week, Jake Sullivan, the American national security advisor, announced that he is planning a visit to the Jewish state in order to meet with members of the new governing coalition. Meir Ben-Shabbat, who served in the equivalent position in the Israeli government from 2017 to 2021, suggests how Jerusalem should approach the key issues apt to be on the table when Sullivan arrives.

The special relations between the two nations and the bipartisan support Israel enjoys in the U.S. [constitute] an overarching interest for Israel. However, Israel is a sovereign country that formulates its policies on its own accord and in view of the responsibility that history has given it as the state of the Jewish people and with the realization that the struggle continues over its existence, stature, and security.

A strong Israel is a boon for the U.S. in various aspects: security-wise, technology-wise, and economically. Israel will therefore continue to use its power to defend itself and will not allow its existence to be threatened. The U.S. should at the very least have our back.

As for domestic issues, Prime Minister Netanyahu should make it clear that Israel is a vibrant and young democracy that sorts things out on hot-button issues through the democratic process. There is no room for meddling and foreign influence by any side.

Iran will certainly be high on Benjamin Netanyahu’s list of concerns, and most likely on Sullivan’s as well. Ben-Shabbat observes:

Iran’s activities in the Ukraine war and the failure to revive the 2015 deal provide an opportunity [for the U.S.] to change [its] policy toward Tehran. Europe might be more receptive to this than before. It’s important to take note that it would be wrong to assume that this new approach will drag the U.S. into war. In fact, such a policy will reduce the risk of a war breaking out in the Middle East over Iran’s continued efforts to implement its vision.

Read more at Israel Hayom

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

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