Israeli Defense Minister Vows to Return Lebanon to ‘Stone Age’

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, 1 Jul 2024

Kyle Anzalone | Antiwar - TRANSCEND Media Service

The White House reversed course and now says a ceasefire in Lebanon cannot be contingent on a deal in Gaza.

27 Jun 2024 – Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was prepared to send Lebanon back to the “Stone Age” with a massive bombing campaign. The White House desperately tries to avert a major war in the Middle East but is not making progress.

After three days of meetings with top officials in Washington, Gallant told reporters that Israel preferred diplomacy but was also willing to utterly destroy Lebanon. “We do not want war, but we are preparing for every scenario. Hezbollah understands very well that we can inflict massive damage in Lebanon if a war is launched,” he said. Israel could bomb “Lebanon back to the Stone Age, but we don’t want to do it.”

Gallant’s remarks come as daily tit-for-tat exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel risk escalating into a major war that could see the US, Iran, and other militias across the Middle East enter the fray. After announcing it had “operational plans” ready for an attack, Israel has started to move some military assets from near Gaza to its northern border.

The White House has invested considerable effort into bringing the conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza to a close. However, rather than applying pressure on Tel Aviv to deescalate, Washington has tried to force Hezbollah and Hamas to accept Israeli demands. Last week, American officials told Beirut that Washington was unable to constrain Tel Aviv, in hopes the warning would convince Hezbollah to back down.

President Joe Biden has significant leverage he could use to reign in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but has largely refused to do so. While US officials claim their diplomatic efforts are not stalled, an increasing number of countries worry war will break out and are asking their citizens to leave Lebanon.

Last week, Biden’s envoy Amos Hochstein visited Tel Aviv and Beirut, hoping to work on a deal to end the fighting. At the time, Hochstein pushed for a deal to end the war in Gaza, with the belief that it would lead to deeslcation on Israel’s northern border as well.

Hezbollah maintains that it will end operations against Israel once the onslaught in Gaza comes to a close. Israel says it will not stop attacks on Lebanon until Hezbollah withdraws several miles from the border. Tel Aviv has decimated southern Lebanon, turning much of the area within three miles of the border into a “dead zone.”

Now, the Biden administration’s tactics have flipped, with officials telling reporters that the deal to end the fighting across the Israel-Lebanon border must be separate from any Gaza ceasefire. “The logic of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah…is that it is all tied to Gaza, and until there is a cease-fire in Gaza the firing at Israel won’t stop,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a senior Biden official. “We frankly, completely reject this logic.”

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Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.

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