JERUSALEM, Israel — Israelis are wondering whether President Joe Biden’s decision to deploy two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean is meant to deter Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists from attacking Israel from Lebanon — or to deter Israel from attacking first.
Tensions are high along Israel’s border with Lebanon. For months, Hezbollah has violated U.N. Resolution 1701 — which ended the last round of conflict in 2006 — by patrolling along the border fence, south of the Litani River, in the demilitarized zone.
Since Hamas launched its terror attack from Gaza on Oct. 7, Hezbollah has been firing anti-tank missiles at Israeli posts and civilian towns, causing a daily trickle of casualties and forcing Israel to evacuate towns near the northern border as a precaution.
Israel would prefer to focus on fighting Hamas in Gaza, but each of Lebanon’s attacks — and attempted terrorist infiltrations — provides ample justification for a massive Israeli response. Thus far, Israel has confined itself to returning fire when fired upon.
There is a growing sense in Israel that the military’s restraint on the Lebanese border — and the perceived delay in launching a ground invasion of Gaza — are the result of U.S. pressure, especially after the White House sent conflicting messages on Friday.
Biden answered “yes” when asked by a reporter if Israel should delay to allow the potential release of more hostages, after two Americans, of the 203 Hamas captives, were let go Friday. The White House later said he did not hear the question properly.
The U.S. has sent two aircraft carriers — the U.S.S. Eisenhower and the U.S.S. Ford — to the eastern Mediterranean, and Biden himself has warned Iran not to use Hezbollah to open a second front (“Don’t”), usually without mentioning Iran explicitly.
But in light of growing European pressure not to invade Gaza, amid concern about Palestinian civilians, some Israelis are wondering if the Biden administration is tying to use the carriers to complicate Israeli efforts to respond to Hezbollah.
The U.S. policy toward Lebanon is controversial in Israel. Both the Trump and Biden administrations have sent aid to Lebanon, without safeguards that it would not be exploited by the Hezbollah-controlled government. The Biden administration also pressured Israel to sign a deal that gave valuable offshore natural gas reserves to Lebanon, on the reasoning that Hezbollah would be less likely to attack Israel if it stood to lose money. Critics at the time slammed the deal as a surrender to terrorist threats.
With that in the background, and Hezbollah disrupting normal life in Israel, some Israelis are questioning whether Biden is trying to protect Israel and prevent Iran from escalating the war — or if the U.S. is attempting to save its own failed Lebanon policy.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.