Photo Credit: Ayal Margolin / Flash 90
Israeli security forces at the site where two combat drones entered Israel from Lebanon and crashed in an open area near Kfar Blum, northern Israel, January 25, 2024.

Time is running out for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on Israel’s northern border, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told White House senior adviser Amos Hochstein on Sunday at their meeting in Tel Aviv.

Hochstein spent the weekend in Israel trying to prevent an escalation of Israel’s conflict with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon — part of the shuttle diplomacy he has been carrying out since last month.


According to an unconfirmed report by Israel’s Channel 12 News, Hochstein expressed optimism about a possible diplomatic solution that would see the terror group moving its forces back from the border.

It’s important to remember that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 – the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War – specified that Hezbollah and its weaponry would remain north of the Litani River, and that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeepers would see to it that the terrorists remained there.

That didn’t work out very well, since Hezbollah ignored the UN from the start, and UNIFIL was more concerned about keeping its forces safe than it was about enforcing the ceasefire agreement.

“We are committed to our citizens. We are ready to resolve this crisis via diplomatic understandings, however we are also prepared for any other scenario,” Gallant said.

The minister emphasized Israel’s determination to remove the threats of infiltration and rocket fire from Lebanon along the border and discussed with Hochstein possible ways to safely return displaced Israeli communities to their homes in the north.

Gallant expressed his appreciation to Hochstein for his personal role and the US Administration’s leadership in addressing security issues in the northern arena, but no real progress seemed to have been made.

Hezbollah continues to fire daily barrages of rocket and missile fire at Israeli military bases and at mostly-evacuated communities along Israel’s northern border. In response, Israel Defense Forces fire at the source of the rocket attacks. IDF artillery forces shell villages in southern Lebanon where Hezbollah is entrenched, and Israeli Air Force fighter pilots bomb the sites of Hezbollah infrastructure and weapons arsenals.

“We are realistic about the situation in the north,” Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy told journalists Monday at a briefing from the National Directorate for Public Diplomacy at the Prime Minister’s Office.

“We are realistic about the failure of international resolutions and diplomatic solutions in the past to prevent Hezbollah’s military buildup in southern Lebanon.”

Levy echoed Gallant’s warning that the diplomatic window is “shrinking” and emphasized a “clear change” is needed to enable residents of northern communities to return home.

“We definitely hope that it will be possible to achieve a diplomatic resolution; that is why we are pushing now for a diplomatic resolution to this crisis.

“But we have also been clear that the window for that diplomatic resolution is shrinking,” Levy said.

“The situation on the northern border will have to end with a clear change in order to enable the residents of northern Israel to return safely to their homes that are currently being shelled,” he said.

The presence of Hezbollah forces along the Israeli border presents an imminent threat of a repeat of October 7, he added, noting that such a change requires the withdrawal of Hezbollah forces from along the Israeli border.

“As far as we’re concerned, that is an imminent threat of a repeat of October 7,” Levy emphasized.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.