The American website, Axios, published an article revealing that the five Western powers (US, UK, France, Germany and Italy) are soon to announce steps to end Israel-Hezbollah fighting on the Lebanon-Israel border. 

The US and four of its European allies (UK, France, Germany and Italy) hope to announce in the next few weeks a series of commitments made by Israel and Hezbollah to defuse tensions and restore calm to the Israel-Lebanon border, according to two Israeli officials and a source briefed on the issue who spoke to the online media, Axios.

According to the American website, the understandings are expected to focus on the partial implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war in Lebanon. They would include a commitment by both parties, Beirut and Tel Aviv, to stop the skirmishes on their border that have been taking place since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The understandings are not expected to require Hezbollah to move all its forces north of the Litani River as resolution 1701 demands, but only eight to 10 kilometers (five to six miles) from the Israeli border, the sources told Axios.

Hezbollah’s Commitment: Freeze in Place

The online media stated that, due to Israeli airstrikes, Hezbollah already moved most of its elite Radwan force seven to 10 kilometers (four to six miles) from the Blue line, in nearly all the areas along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

According to the sources, the understandings would be based on the principle of “freezing in place:” Hezbollah will not have to withdraw its forces, but only commit to not sending them back to areas along the border where they were positioned before October 7.

Instead, the Lebanese army will send 10,000 to 12,000 troops to the area along the border with Israel, the sources told Axios.

Israel to Stop Overflights in Lebanese Airspace

“Israel would also have to take steps to defuse tensions,” according to the sources that spoke to Axios. The US asked Israel to stop the overflights its fighter jets conduct in Lebanese airspace. It seems that Tel Aviv hasn’t rejected this request.

Under the proposal, Israel would also commit to pulling out some of the forces — mostly reservists — it deployed along the border in the last four months, the sources said. The White House declined to comment, but a US official told Axios that getting “Israeli and Lebanese citizens back into their homes, living in peace and security is of the utmost importance.” “We continue to explore and exhaust all diplomatic options … to achieve this goal,” the official said. He added that some of the elements described by the sources are not true, but would not give any specifics.

1996 “Grapes of Wrath” Model

The online media pointed out that Amos Hochstein, one of President Biden’s closest and most trusted advisers, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Israel on Sunday and discussed his proposal for new understandings on the border. It explained that the proposal is based on the model of the 1996 “Grapes of Wrath” understandings between Israel and Hezbollah that were declared by the US and other world powers to end the Israeli military operation in Lebanon at the time.

The sources told Axios that the new understandings would not be officially signed by the parties, but the US and four European allies would issue a statement detailing the commitments each side agreed to make. The five Western powers will also announce economic benefits to boost the Lebanese economy to sweeten the deal for Hezbollah, the sources told Axios.

The online media explained how preventing a war between Israel and Hezbollah has been a key objective for the Biden administration in its efforts to prevent the fighting in Gaza from expanding into a much wider regional conflict. It detailed that the US concerns about an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah grew last month after skirmishes along the border escalated following the Israeli assassination of a senior Hamas official in a strike in Beirut. According to Axios, US officials, concerned about last month’s escalation, told Israel that the administration doesn’t underestimate Israel’s ability to cause great harm to Lebanon but thinks it would be a strategic mistake to launch a major military operation against Hezbollah, the source briefed on the issue said.

The two Israeli officials told Axios that Israel didn’t want to initiate a war in Lebanon in January but was concerned that Hezbollah was planning a wide-ranging attack. It took time for Gallant to convince Hochstein that Israel was truly interested in a diplomatic solution, revealed the website. The source briefed on the issue said that the US believes that Hezbollah has been underestimating the severity of the situation on the border.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sent messages to the US through intermediaries saying that he knows that the US controls Israel and would therefore stop it from going to war against Lebanon, the source told Axios. The US made clear to Nasrallah, through Lebanese officials, that this was not the case and warned against making a miscalculation, according to the source.

“The US hopes a possible hostage deal and pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza would make it easier to calm the situation along the Israel-Lebanon border, but it is preparing to announce the understandings even if that doesn’t happen,” the sources told Axios.