US Officials Say Netanyahu’s Rhetoric Hurts Efforts to Ease Hezbollah Tensions

In a recent video, the Israeli prime minister accused Washington of withholding weapons and ammunition

US officials have told the news outlet Axios that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s complaints about insufficient military aid from the US are hindering efforts to de-escalate tensions with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

The Israeli leader posted a video on Tuesday accusing Washington of “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel” for several months, calling such behavior “inconceivable.”

According to three Biden administration officials who spoke to Axios on the condition of anonymity, the White House is concerned that Netanyahu’s rhetoric is creating a rift between the two allies and weakening Israel’s deterrent power in the region, particularly against Hezbollah.

“It is hard to fathom how a video like the one Netanyahu released on Tuesday helps with deterrence. There is nothing like telling Hezbollah that the US is withholding weapons from Israel, which is false, to make them feel emboldened,” one senior US official told the outlet.

Axios further reported that while US officials have publicly stated that they “do not know what [Netanyahu] is talking about,” privately, Biden’s team was “angry and shocked” at the Israeli prime minister’s “ingratitude,” with some officials even describing him as “unhinged.”

Last week, CBS News reported that Washington was growing “increasingly concerned” over the possibility of the Israel-Hamas war escalating into a larger Middle East conflict involving Hezbollah and potentially American troops.

The head of the Shia militia, Hassan Nasrallah, warned on Wednesday that Hezbollah is prepared for a full-scale conflict with Israel and could invade its northern territories if the conflict escalates. His statement came after one of the group’s senior commanders, Hajj Sami Taleb Abdullah, was killed in an Israeli strike on southern Lebanon last week.

Nasrallah stressed that if Israel wishes to start a new war, then “there will be no place safe from our missiles and drones” and vowed that such a conflict will “change the face of the region and shape its future,” describing the current confrontation as “the greatest battle since 1948” – the year the State of Israel was founded. 

The US has been calling for restraint from both Israel and Hezbollah. However, the Jewish state’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz this week stressed that his country was “very close” to a decision that would “change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon,” and vowed to destroy the Shia militia and hit the country “hard.”