Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should stay home if her mission is to go to the Middle East in an attempt to tell Israel to stop the war against Hezbollah.

President Bush’s message that Israel should use “restraint” in dealing with Hezbollah is equally off the mark. In his first term, President Bush understood the use of pre-emptive war as a necessary national security strategy designed to deal effectively with terrorists. Would President Bush refrain from going to war if Hezbollah sleeper cells launched a terrorist attack in the United States?

Hezbollah committed an act of war when terrorists crossed the Lebanon border into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. Truthfully, Hezbollah has been launching rockets into northern Israel killing civilians for years. Israel understands that the recent step-up in Hezbollah violence against Israel was in direct response to orders issued by Iran to divert attention at the recent G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg away from Iran’s decision to continue enriching uranium.

Israel understands that Hezbollah is conducting a proxy war on behalf of Iran. The mullahs created Hezbollah and even today Tehran funds Hezbollah to the tune of $250 million a year. If the world succeeds in calling Israel off, then terrorists throughout the world will be emboldened. Israel is now in a vice where enemies on all sides are calling for the destruction of the Jewish state – Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza and Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

At this moment, with Israel just about to launch a ground incursion into southern Lebanon, Hezbollah itself is at an existential moment. Israel has the power not only to disarm Hezbollah, but to destroy Hezbollah as a political movement within Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s prestige in the terrorist world comes from the 1983 suicide bombing attack on the American Marines barracks in Beirut. The result: President Reagan decided to withdraw all U.S. troops from Lebanon. Then, in 2001, Hezbollah boasted that it defeated Israel by forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. Right now, Hezbollah is viewed as the only terrorist force in the world that has defeated both the United States and Israel, a feat even Iran itself cannot claim.

Israel is at the first stages of going for a fundamental and historic strategic realignment of power in the Middle East. Hezbollah disarmed would become a Lebanese minority political party that at best could command some 20 to 25 percent of the popular vote. Moreover, a defeat for Hezbollah would be a serious defeat for Iran. Tehran hopes desperately that the world community will step in to restrain Israel before Israel scores a knockout punch on Hezbollah.

This time Israel is playing for keeps. With Iran pursuing nuclear weapons and Ahmadinejad openly proclaiming that Israel needs to be wiped off the face of the earth, Israel knows that war with Iran is inevitable, probably sooner rather than later. Removing Hezbollah as an armed terrorist organization would remove a major weapon from the Iranian arsenal.

Even if the war expands to Syria and then to Iran, Israel would rather take both countries on now, before Iran has the short time yet needed to produce deliverable nuclear weapons of their own making.

The United States can exert strong-arm pressure on Israel, but to do so would be to our detriment. By attacking Hezbollah with a determination to destroy Hezbollah as an armed terrorist organization, Israel truly is doing the dirty work for the United States.

If President Bush is truly serious about waging a successful war on terrorism, the administration must be instructed to give Israel enough time to do the job. No one doubts that the Israeli military has the needed skill and force to get the job done. All that is needed now is the political will in Washington to stay the course and back Israel, our only true ally in the region.

If we waver now, Israel will only fear doubly that the coming showdown with Iran may be one Israel will have to face alone. The Bush administration should do everything necessary right now to avoid putting this fear into Israel. The more Israel feels isolated today, the more resolved the Israeli government will become that Israel alone must defend Israel, regardless what anyone, including President Bush, thinks or says.

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