The Biden Admin Lobbied Lebanon To Stop Promoting Anti-Israel Boycotts. That Diplomacy Failed.

Blinken, Lebanon's Mikati (Chuck Kennedy/State Department via Wikimedia)
January 8, 2024

The Biden administration lobbied the Lebanese government to stop promoting economic boycotts of Israel, according to a non-public State Department report to Congress. But those diplomatic efforts failed to produce any results.

U.S. diplomats stationed in Beirut repeatedly pressed "senior Lebanese government officials to temper Lebanon's Israel boycott legislation" throughout 2022 and 2023, the State Department reported to Congress in a Jan. 2, 2024, notification obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"The embassy also raised Lebanon's corrosive BDS policies in diplomatic engagements" surrounding an October 2022 maritime agreement brokered between Israel and Lebanon, the State Department said. "BDS" refers to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which wages economic warfare on the Jewish state.

The notification does not indicate that these lobbying efforts worked. Regional experts, as well as a senior congressional source familiar with the State Department's diplomacy in Lebanon, told the Free Beacon that Beirut's government effectively rebuffed the Biden administration's overtures. The failure to move Lebanon into more pro-Israel territory indicates that the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah continues to influence Beirut and ensure the country does not normalize relations with the Jewish state.

"Lebanon is a failed state run by an Iranian proxy, Hezbollah," said Jonathan Schanzer, a regional analyst who serves as the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. "The notion that State Department officials could convince this government to pursue anything resembling a sane policy toward Israel, or much else for that matter, strikes me as purely wishful thinking."

The State Department undertook these efforts to push Lebanon closer to its Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain—all of which have opened up diplomacy with Israel and softened their economic boycotts since the signing of the 2020 Abraham Accords peace deal.

Pulling Lebanon away from the BDS movement remains a priority "as normalization with Israel is becoming the regional norm, and as a means to ease Lebanon's economic crisis," the State Department told Congress in the notification.

A State Department spokesman would not comment on the report, citing a policy of not discussing congressional communications, but said the Biden administration is engaged in work to counter the BDS movement.

"As a general matter, the United States firmly rejects the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel," the spokesman said. "The United States will continue to be a strong partner in fighting efforts to delegitimize Israel, and we will work tirelessly to support Israel's further integration into the international community."

In addition to raising the issue during the October 2022 negotiations on an Israel-Lebanon maritime deal, Biden administration diplomats raised the issue in July of that year, after Lebanese authorities arrested a top religious official for allegedly attempting to import cash and medicine from Israel, according to the State Department.

Lebanon and Syria remain the top Arab countries waging full economic boycotts on Israel, a pillar of efforts to delegitimize Israel and harm its economic prosperity in the region. Since the State Department began its diplomatic offensive, Lebanon has made no change to its policies.

One senior GOP congressional official with knowledge of the State Department's diplomacy in Lebanon said the country's refusal to budge on the issue indicates that it does not take the U.S. government seriously, even as America pours billions of dollars in economic aid into the nation.

"It's just so incredibly pathetic," the source said. "Lebanon is a failed state controlled by Hezbollah. The Biden administration pretends [Lebanon] has a real independent government so they can keep sending them billions of American taxpayer dollars, but whenever they ask that pretend government to do the most basic things in America's interest they get told to fuck off."