Mustafa Fahs

The ‘Hoopoe’ Drone and Hochstein

Between Hezbollah’s “hoopoe” drone - which flew in the skies of occupied Palestine and returned with pictures of strategic Israeli locations, especially in the city of Haifa and its port, in addition to important factories and military installations - and the White House “hoopoe”, that is, the US special envoy to Lebanon, Amos Hochstein, who soared between Tel Aviv and Beirut a few days ago, conveying messages he heard with his own ears from the Israeli side and returning with parallel stances from Lebanon; it seems that the options have narrowed for both parties.
Diplomatically and in the logic of conflict resolution, it cannot be said with certainty that Hochstein’s visit is the last to the region, nor that the doors to political solutions between Israel and Lebanon have been closed.
But those familiar with the movements of Hochstein, the White House hoopoe, realize that his recent flight from Israeli airspace to Lebanon can be compared to a passing bird on its way back home to wait for the end of a hot summer or a harsh winter, after searching in vain for security and food.
The atmosphere in the Mediterranean basin as of October 7, 2023 is no longer moderate, as Hochstein had described it in his previous stays. In his conversation with Lebanese officials, Hochstein hinted that his visit was like a “last chance” for a solution, and that time was running out if the Lebanese side did not take quick steps before the end of the military operations in the city of Rafah, which in his opinion might only take several weeks.
Therefore, he stressed in his discussions in Beirut that the necessary step for a solution begins with dissociating the Gaza front from the southern Lebanon front, and that adhering to this connection would turn the limited clashes in the South to an open confrontation with Lebanon.
But before Hochstein arrived in Beirut from Tel Aviv, the Hezbollah “hoopoe” had returned from its mission, carrying enough pictures and coordinates for Israeli military and strategic sites, to place before the White House “hoopoe” a new equation that “what we saw and know is equivalent to what you heard and reported”, and that Hezbollah, backed by Tehran, is prepared for all possibilities.
The message also implies that Tehran, which had earlier made a commitment to Washington not to expand the southern front and to adhere to the rules of engagement, will renounce its promise if Tel Aviv chooses escalation or moves to an open and comprehensive war, and that Hezbollah will not be left alone.
Hochstein’s warning was more like a threat. His choice, at the end of his tour, to read a written text in front of the press meant, in diplomatic terms, that he conveyed a demand and did not present ideas while awaiting a response. Therefore, his talk about a last chance is tied to the negativity of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in dealing with US President Joe Biden’s plan for a solution in Gaza.
His reference to the time factor is not only related to the battle of Rafah, but also to the imminent intensification of electoral competition in the United States and the shift of the priorities of the current US administration from foreign affairs to internal matters. It is also linked to Netanyahu’s bet on forbidding this administration from achieving an external breakthrough, whether in Gaza or with Iran, with regards to the nuclear file and the stability of the Middle East, which would be reflected positively in the electoral competition for the American presidency.
Accordingly, the content of the messages transmitted by the two “hoopoes” indicate that the tension on both sides of the border and in the region may not end peacefully, especially since each party is betting on its ability to achieve gains or prevent the other from realizing its goals.
The regional Hezbollah has threatened Cyprus and is ready to enter the Galilee, while Tel Aviv is warning of a regional war and ready to destroy Lebanon. This means that Hochstein’s return to his original homeland is almost inevitable with the impossibility to go back to the negotiating climate that prevailed before October 6, 2023.