President Biden has dispatched his top aides to the Middle East with a critical objective: Prevent a full-blown war from erupting between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Israel has made clear it views as untenable the regular exchange of fire between its forces and Hezbollah along the border and may soon launch a major military operation in Lebanon.
“We prefer the path of an agreed-upon diplomatic settlement,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Friday, “but we are getting close to the point where the hourglass will turn over.”
U.S. officials are concerned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may see an expanded fight in Lebanon as key to his political survival amid domestic criticism of his government’s failure to prevent Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, which killed an estimated 1,200 people and resulted in some 240 hostages being taken to Gaza.
In private conversations, the administration has warned Israel against a significant escalation in Lebanon. If it were to do so, a new secret assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) found that it will be difficult for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to succeed because its military assets and resources would be spread too thin given the conflict in Gaza, according to two people familiar with those findings. A spokesperson for the DIA did not offer comment. [Continue reading…]