Charles Krauthammer

Hence the golden, unprecedented opportunity. Hezbollah makes a fatal mistake. It crosses the U.N.-delineated international frontier to attack Israel, kill soldiers and take hostages. This cross-border aggression is so naked that even Russia joins in the G-8 summit communique blaming Hezbollah for the violence and calling for the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty in the south.

But only one country has the capacity to do the job. That is Israel, now recognized by the world as forced into this fight by Hezbollah's aggression. The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran's choosing.

Just as in Kuwait 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded -- implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty.

Only two questions remain: Israel's will and America's wisdom. Does Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have the courage to do what is so obviously necessary? And will Secretary of State Rice's upcoming peace trip to the Middle East force a premature cease-fire that spares her the humiliation of coming home empty-handed but prevents precisely the kind of decisive military outcome that would secure the interests of Israel, Lebanon, the moderate Arabs and the West?

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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