Hochstein's mission: The American approach to negotiations with Hezbollah for Lebanese stability

Press Highlights
2024-01-07 | 02:20
High views
Hochstein's mission: The American approach to negotiations with Hezbollah for Lebanese stability
Hochstein's mission: The American approach to negotiations with Hezbollah for Lebanese stability

According to information from "Al-Akhbar," discussions about the "Lebanese Tomorrow" have indeed begun, especially on the American and Israeli sides. It is a hadith that resonates in Lebanon.

This article is originally published in, translated from Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar.
 However, the official Lebanese authorities are not currently in a serious negotiating position. This has prompted the American side to approach the party in control in Lebanon directly.

Following a business-oriented approach favored by the US, Washington seeks to "strike a deal" with Hezbollah to provide "clear guarantees that Israel seeks for security in its northern regions." American bluntness is sometimes useful, indicating they don't need to play word games when finalizing a deal. Therefore, they are studying the price Israel needs to pay to Lebanon in exchange for tranquility.

In the American context, President Joe Biden assigned the file to his energy advisor for Lebanon, Amos Hochstein. He is working alone this time since the embassy team in Beirut is deemed unhelpful. The previous ambassador, Dorothy Shea, has left, and her successor, Lisa Johnson, prepares to arrive within ten days.

Lisa is eager to return to the country where she had beautiful personal and professional experiences. Many are reminiscing about their memories with the lively young woman before time takes its toll. Lisa knows much about Lebanon and the resistance and will play her role alongside Hochstein. However, before the process began, the man independently communicated with a Lebanese intermediary who conveyed messages between him and Hezbollah. Hezbollah listened to the messages and responded with one phrase: Stop the war on Gaza first, then we can talk!

The resistance is not worried about the weapons file and is preparing its files to prevent a repetition of the experiences of borders 23 and 29 in the south.

Hochstein didn't take long to realize that there was no room for any steps before the aggression on Gaza stopped. However, he decided to accomplish his mission in two stages: the theoretical stage includes the idea of a hypothesis that says: "If the war on Gaza stops, and it becomes possible to negotiate about the situation on the border with Lebanon, what can be done?" He did not do this with the Lebanese only, but he explicitly told the Israelis that there was no room for any discussion before stopping the war.

He advised them not to believe "the reports of the French and international employees" because they "do not know anything, and present their ideas as proposals issued by the other party, and are looking for a role in any way." In two announced rounds of discussion between Hochstein and the Israeli political, security, and military leaders, the man concluded by defining Tel Aviv's priorities:

First, they are facing difficulties due to events on the Lebanese borders, particularly the large voluntary displacement resulting from Hezbollah's actions. Significant problems affect not only the settlers' demands but also the region's economic, tourism, and agricultural activities.

Second, Israel possesses extensive information about what it calls the dense deployment of Hezbollah personnel along the borders, especially the Al-Ridwan forces, before and after the war. Israel considers ideal security achieved by keeping these personnel away from the borders, creating a secure reality in the Lebanese border depth to ensure they do not return.

Third, Israel recognizes that Lebanon cannot be demanded to take action without it initiating steps indicating its commitment to UN Resolution 1701. There is also concern about the gas platforms and their future, which could be a real threat unless Lebanon obtains its rights in its regional and economic waters.

Based on this, Hochstein's recent visit to Tel Aviv resulted in a "reasonable" idea about the time frame for the Israeli war on Gaza and Israeli readiness to respond to Lebanese requests. Hochstein seems "optimistic to a certain extent," but he insists on developing a coherent and quick proposal immediately after ceasing the war in Gaza.

He seeks to "arrange a viable proposal that will be available and presented quickly after the war stops, so as not to consume a long time before agreeing on it."

In practical proposals, some key points include:

-Addressing border dispute points, whether the 13 officially recognized or the 17 under preparation, involving experts, whether in the state or the resistance, noting that Hezbollah's leadership does not want Lebanon to enter into the land demarcation file against the backdrop of professional disputes, which has necessitated opening discussion with experts, legal experts, and topographers to develop a coherent vision and avoid the gaps that accompanied maritime demarcation and the problems that appeared on the lines between lines 23 and 29. 

It is clear to both the American and Israeli sides that the discussion begins with recognizing Lebanon's right to Point B1 at Ras Naqoura.

-Planning for the withdrawal of the enemy from the Lebanese part of the town of Al-Mar (Ghajar) and handing it over to the Lebanese state without arrangements with any other party.

-Urging the UN Secretary-General to utilize paragraph 10 of Resolution 1701 to develop a solution for the Shebaa Farms issue amid an Israeli desire to be under the guardianship of international forces for a period that depends on the future of the conflict with Syria. An apparent Lebanese demand that the enemy and the world acknowledge Lebanon's rights and leave it to Lebanon to decide how to manage and resolve any disputes with Syria.

Fourth: The American consideration has begun regarding the importance of political and economic stability in Lebanon for a strong and cohesive government that can fulfill its role in a way that exempts it from searching for guarantees from any external parties and that Lebanon knows that the resistance is not in the mood to discuss its weapons, neither now nor after the war on Gaza stops. What happened reinforces the conviction among it and a section of the Lebanese of the importance of this weapon.

This is a sentiment heard by Hochstein himself. Therefore, he consistently avoids echoing the "Israeli and European delirium" about the necessity of withdrawing Hezbollah forces from the southern part of the Litani River.

Fifth: Hochstein's realization that Lebanon needs elements to enhance stability in it, and this is related to addressing outstanding files, politically (the presidential and governmental file, and so on), and others economically (the financial blockade on Lebanon and the issue of oil and gas).

In this context, Hochstein told Lebanese authorities that the French company would return to conduct drilling and exploration work in Block 9 after choosing a new drilling point and work in Blocks 8 and 10. Hochstein acknowledged that the previous halt was politically motivated.

In conclusion, Hezbollah's Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, during his speech on Friday, decisively settled much of the ongoing debate, whether behind closed doors or through the media, regarding the possibility that the party might obstruct efforts towards agreements on the maritime demarcation, out of fear for its weapons.

He told those who harbor doubt or suspicion that "the weapons are here to stay and have their defensive role, regardless of what is eventually reached, and therefore, the resistance has no concerns about this matter."

Lebanon News

Press Highlights

Amos Hochstein




United States






Strategic warning: Israel's potential move against Resolution 1701 implementation
War or peace? The diplomatic tightrope in the Lebanon-Israel border crisis
LBCI Previous
Download now the LBCI mobile app
To see the latest news, the latest daily programs in Lebanon and the world
Google Play
App Store
We use
We use cookies to make
your experience on this
website better.
Learn More