Nov 20, 2023 - World

Scoop: Senior Biden adviser in Israel for talks on preventing war with Lebanon

An Israeli mobile artillery unit takes position in Upper Galilee in northern Israel near the Lebanon border on Nov. 15. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

Senior Biden adviser Amos Hochstein arrived in Israel on Monday for talks with senior Israeli officials on preventing a war between Israel and Lebanon, two U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: U.S. officials say there is growing anxiety in the White House that Israeli military action in Lebanon is exacerbating tensions along the border, which could lead to a regional war.

  • Some in the Biden administration are concerned Israel is trying to provoke Hezbollah and create a pretext for a wider war in Lebanon that could draw the U.S. and other countries further into the conflict. Israeli officials outrightly deny this.

Driving the news: Hochstein arrived in Israel after another day of escalating skirmishes between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces on the border, with heavy bombardments by the Lebanon-based militant group and airstrikes by the Israeli Air Force.

  • Hochstein is expected to meet with Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi, and Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, an Israeli official said.

What they're saying: "This trip builds on Hochstein's visit to Beirut earlier this month where he made clear the United States does not want to see conflict in Gaza escalating and expanding into Lebanon," a U.S. official said.

  • "While in Israel, Hochstein will emphasize that restoring calm along Israel's northern border is of utmost importance to the United States and it should be a top priority for both Israel and Lebanon."

The big picture: Israel wants the U.S. to work diplomatically to press Hezbollah to pull back its elite Radwan Force from the border with Israel, a senior Israeli official said.

  • Israel has evacuated tens of thousands of residents from Israeli villages and towns close to the border as a precaution.
  • The Israeli official said these civilians will not go back to their homes if they believe there is a threat on the other side of the border.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from a U.S. official.

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