Sat 21 Oct 2023 3:43 pm - Jerusalem Time
“Gallant wanted to surprise Hezbollah, and Netanyahu objected under American pressure.”
By Ronen Bergman
US President Joe Biden and his advisors asked the Israeli leaders to refrain from directing a major strike against Hezbollah, which could bring the “terrorist” organization from Lebanon into the Israel-Gaza war. This is what the New York Times published tonight, and it came in a report written by Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet journalist Ronen Bergman.
According to what was published, the United States fears that the war cabinet “hawks” want to expand the fighting to Lebanon as well, and in the background, there are repeated incidents of attacks on northern towns, the firing of anti-armor shells at army forces on the border, and infiltration attempts by “saboteurs.” ", which previously led to deaths on the Israeli side.
The New York Times indicated that the United States fears an additional front in the north, which will drag Iran and the United States into war. While the United States and Israel are trying to open a united front publicly, there are disagreements behind the scenes. Despite this, the report indicated that the United States is working in additional communication channels to curb Hezbollah. During a “series of meetings in the Middle East,” American officials asked their Arab counterparts to pass a warning message to the “terrorist” organization in Lebanon.
American authorities feared that Netanyahu would approve a pre-emptive strike against Hezbollah, after the deadly attack carried out by Hamas on October 7, in which more than 1,400 people were killed. Although this did not materialize, the United States still fears an “exaggerated response” from Israel to the launching of missiles from Hezbollah or Lebanon, or that a massive ground entry into the Gaza Strip will push the Lebanese organization into the war.
During the meetings between the Americans and their Israeli counterparts during the week, they pointed out the importance of paying attention to the fact that operations in the north or south do not prompt Hezbollah to intervene. These sensitive talks took place during President Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's visit to Israel this week.
The plan proposed by Gallant and rejected by Netanyahu
During meetings with Netanyahu and members of the military cabinet, they expressed their fear of developments in the north. Defense Minister Yoav Galant claimed that Israel's military effort should be focused on Hezbollah "because it is a greater threat than Hamas," the sources said. Gallant told Blinken that he has been pushing a pre-emptive attack against Hezbollah since last week - but other Israeli parties rejected the proposal.
Biden also explained, in his conversation with the military cabinet, where the Minister of Defense was also present, the dangers inherent in a war on two fronts. The President of the United States even asked difficult questions about the major projections of a broad confrontation with Hezbollah. Until now, Netanyahu has refrained from supporting a large-scale attack on Hezbollah, according to American and Israeli sources who spoke to the New York Times, despite the position of Gallant and other military leaders in the army. During internal consultations in Israel, Netanyahu supported a limited strike against Hezbollah.
Even elements in the army proposed a plan focusing on such an attack, in which a ground entry into Gaza would be a camouflage for a broad strike in the north, but Netanyahu refused to carry out this operation, frustrating Gallant and others who supported it.
The differences stem mainly from the lack of clarity regarding everything related to the intervention of Hezbollah or Iran in the surprise attack, about two weeks ago. Israeli and American authorities told the New York Times that no evidence of such interference had been found - to the point that senior officials in Hezbollah and Tehran were surprised by this attack.
American diplomats said that one of the things that worries the Biden administration is the fear that officials in Israel, including Netanyahu and Gallant, were so blinded by the October 7 attack that they were going to launch a large-scale operation against Hezbollah. Diplomats told a small group of American lawmakers that this was one of the reasons why the cabinet session, with the participation of the Secretary of State, lasted no less than 7 and a half hours.
The report in the New York Times revealed that after the Gallant-Blinken meeting, it was supposed to be a photo meeting, without statements, but Gallant surprised the Americans and thanked them in front of the cameras for sending the aircraft carrier that could operate in the event of a major confrontation with Hezbollah. He said the war would be long, which was one of the central concerns of the United States.
The US State Department and the National Security Council in the White House, as well as the Army and the Department of Defense, refused to comment on the news.
A source in Netanyahu’s office said, “Israel is united against Hamas. The prime minister said that if Hezbollah joins the war, this mistake will be huge, and they will pay an unparalleled price, and it will be devastating.”
Source: Yedioth Ahronoth