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Aggressive Diplomacy from the US Solely Can Prevent an Israeli-Hezbollah Conflict

Hezbollah rejected US overtures (Credits: CSIS)

White House Special Envoy Amos Hochstein is set to return to Beirut as part of ongoing diplomatic efforts to diffuse the escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, in the middle of the ongoing Gaza war.

This visit comes on the heels of a dramatic escalation between Iran and Israel, triggered by an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, followed by a largely thwarted Iranian attack and overnight explosions in parts of Iran, for which Israel has not fully acknowledged responsibility.

Given the interconnected dynamics of the region and the high likelihood of the conflict spreading beyond Iran and Israel, the risks of an all-out war remain alarmingly high. This underscores the critical need for more coercive US diplomacy to prevent an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah that could erupt into a full-scale regional war.

The Coming Conflict with Hezbollah (Credits: Asharq Al-Awsat)

The recent flare-up has indeed stoked tensions and reignited the shadow war between the two foes, with Iran’s allies vowing to continue the fight until a ceasefire in Gaza is reached.

Since Israel’s strike on Iran, a series of intense attacks and counterattacks have flared at the Lebanese-Israeli border, with Hezbollah intensifying its actions against Israeli military targets.

Hochstein is intensifying his efforts to stop this tit-for-tat from escalating further. However, it is increasingly apparent that nothing will stop Israel from launching an offensive against Hezbollah, with Lebanon as its ultimate casualty.

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Israeli officials have been preparing the northern front, expecting Hezbollah to be “activated,” and have escalated strikes into Lebanon, threatening to take matters into their own hands if Hezbollah does not back off.

Regardless of the course of US-led negotiations, all indications suggest that the Israeli government is gearing up for a larger operation in Lebanon.

Israeli leaders have reiterated that they will not stop, citing the country’s continued insecurity and the displacement of roughly 150,000 people from the border area. The Israeli military has announced its withdrawal of troops from Gaza to transition to “offensive actions” against Hezbollah and has increased its military readiness in the north.

Most residents who left their homes in the north are unwilling to return unless the threat of a Hezbollah attack is removed, creating added pressure on the Israeli political establishment.

A majority of Israelis today support an offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon that permanently ensures the safety and security of the northern border. This war, which Israel has long been contemplating, could explode any minute.

However, any such assault may devastate Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon and degrade the militant group’s weapons, but it is unlikely to dislodge and eliminate it, ensuring its stronger and more entrenched return.

This may strengthen Hezbollah, which will likely spin the attack’s results as a victory and impose a more repressive hegemony post-war, going after its opponents more aggressively.

Hezbollah has reasons for its current pugnacity (Credits: Council on Foreign Relations)

What this will undoubtedly achieve is the destruction of Lebanon, with thousands dying, the country’s infrastructure demolished, its economy in tatters, and more people displaced – and in ways that may eliminate any possibility of its recovery as a liberal, pluralistic, and sovereign nation.

At this critical juncture, the US needs to do all it can to de-escalate the situation, but it should not limit negotiations to demands on Hezbollah alone.

It needs to make demands on Israel as well, convincingly, and make more forcible efforts to incentivize it to stick to diplomacy rather than start a war. This will enable a longer-term solution to the problem that is Hezbollah and tackle head-on its de-facto control of Lebanon.

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