update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Netanyahu hosts US energy envoy amid Hezbollah tensions

Amos Hochstein was instrumental in mediating the 2022 natural gas deal between Jerusalem and Beirut.

U.S. Envoy Amos Hochstein, Feb. 9, 2021. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.
U.S. Envoy Amos Hochstein, Feb. 9, 2021. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday with the Biden administration’s special envoy for energy Amos Hochstein.

The two men spoke about “regional issues and topics connected to the close cooperation between the U.S. and Israel,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

They discussed growing tensions with Hezbollah and ongoing diplomatic efforts to forge a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia.

According to a report, Washington recently proposed that Jerusalem halt construction on a security barrier in a village on the Lebanese border in exchange for the removal of a Hezbollah outpost set up on the Israeli side of the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line.

In doing so, the United States was repeating a Lebanese demand made on July 10 during a meeting in Beirut between Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz.

Ghajar, an Alawite village, is divided by the Blue Line. Its residents hold Israeli citizenship and many in the northern portion also have Lebanese passports.

Tensions have been high along the border since Hezbollah pitched two tents in early April a few meters on the Israeli side of the Blue Line in the Mount Dov region.

The position, located across from an Israeli military base, was reportedly manned by three to eight armed terrorists. While the area isn’t home to any Israeli civilian communities, it’s one in which the IDF operates continuously to thwart incursions into Israeli territory.

It was reported on July 2 that Hezbollah had removed one of the tents. 

Ongoing border issues with Lebanon, brought on by Hezbollah aggression, continue despite Israel’s signing of a U.S.-mediated maritime border deal with Lebanon on Oct. 27, 2022.

Hochstein was instrumental in mediating the agreement, shuttling between Jerusalem and Beirut for months.

On July 5, several Hezbollah terrorists and dozens of armed Lebanese army soldiers briefly entered Israeli territory. The incident occurred in the area of Menara, a kibbutz adjacent to the Lebanese border in the Upper Galilee, while the IDF was carrying out work on the border area.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry revealed in May that Hezbollah has in the past year constructed no fewer than 27 military posts along the Blue Line.

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the terrorist group is forbidden from operating near the frontier.

Meanwhile, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi recently told JNS that the United States believes that a landmark diplomatic deal normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia is achievable.

Netanyahu has called a deal with the Saudis a “quantum leap” for regional peace.

Israel has normalized ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan as part of the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords.

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