Blinken says Israel has lost sovereignty in the North due to Hezbollah attacks

Firas Maksad, senior researcher at the Middle East Institute, wrote on X that there was still time for key players to find a diplomatic solution. Mr. Hochstein’s trip, he said, would likely take place Wednesday. “The window for diplomacy is closing but it’s not closed,” he said.

Mr. Blinken, speaking Monday at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, said he did not believe the key players in the border conflict — Israel, Hezbollah and Iran — actually wanted to go to war, but that is where the “momentum” in the fighting could lead. U.S. officials fear such a conflict could force the United States to intervene on Israel’s behalf.

“Nobody really wants a war,” Mr. Blinken said. He said Iran, a determined enemy of Israel, “wants to make sure that Hezbollah is not destroyed and that it can hold onto it as a ticket if it needs to, if it ever comes into direct conflict with Israel.”

Some 60,000 Israelis have fled the border clashes, many of them living in Tel Aviv hotels for nine months. Referring to this situation, Mr. Blinken said that “Israel has effectively lost sovereignty in the northern quadrant of its country because people don’t feel safe returning home.” The fighting has also displaced tens of thousands of people from southern Lebanon.

“If you don’t do something about the insecurity, people won’t have the confidence to come back,” Blinken said. Resolving the problem, he added, would require an agreement to withdraw forces from the border.

Mr. Blinken noted that Hezbollah has said that if a ceasefire is reached in Gaza, it will stop shooting at Israel. This “underscores why a ceasefire in Gaza is so critical,” he said. But the latest round of negotiations between Israel and Hamas appears to be stalled.

Mr. Hochstein has met in recent weeks with Israeli officials and also with Lebanese officials, who can pass messages to and from Hezbollah, in an effort to negotiate a Hezbollah withdrawal far enough from the border to satisfy Israel. In return, Israel could withdraw from some disputed border areas and the United States could provide economic assistance to southern Lebanon, analysts say.

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