Misconceptions about Hezbollah are piling up By Moshe Zak

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And if Prime Minister Shimon Peres is right that Iran's goal in encouraging Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad to fight Israel is to bring down his government, should we then conclude that if the government is replaced, terrorist attacks against Israel will cease?

If the Americans are correct in asserting that Hezbollah, under Syrian influence, is ready to refrain from showering Katyushas on Galilee in the framework of the Operation Accountability agreements, and the latest series of shellings resulted from a mistake, then how does this jibe with the argument that Hezbollah terrorism is directed by Iran and is meant to unseat Peres?

And if the French are right in saying Hezbollah military activities will end after the Israeli army withdraws from South Lebanon, why do its leaders continue to rail against the "Zionist entity's" very existence and preach about preparing for "Jerusalem's liberation" from the Zionists?

If intermediaries know what they are talking about when they say the most Israel can achieve in current circumstances is a reconfirmation of the understanding that Hezbollah will not shell Galilee towns and villages in return for Israel's promise not to bombard civilian villages north of the security zone, how can Israel Defense Forces and South Lebanon Army soldiers in the zone defend themselves against Hezbollah attacks? How can they return fire with 100 percent guarantees that no civilian will be harmed in the artillery exchanges?

An accommodation with Syria does not guarantee the end of terror attacks in the north. The proof is that the pact with the PLO has not ended terrorist strikes from the territories under the Palestinian Authority's control. Though Ashkelon is not being shelled by Katyushas from Gaza, the Palestinian terrorists have developed an alternative — suicide attackers reaching longer-range targets.

The understanding worked out after Operation Accountability through the Syrians and Americans, obligating the pro-Iranian terrorist group not to fire Katyushas into Galilee, no longer exists. While that deal afforded northern residents many nights of not sleeping in shelters, IDF and SLA troops paid the price with heavy casualties. They could not retaliate with massive bombardments lest they harm residents of Lebanese villages beyond the security zone.

A new accommodation for a cease-fire in the north, if it can be attained, must be detached from Israeli electoral considerations. The argument that Iran's main motive in encouraging Islamic terrorism against Jews is to bring down the government is one side of the coin. This introduces Arab and Islamic elements into the election.

The other side is promoting the delusion that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad can be convinced, through the PLO, to waive terrorist activity against Israel until election day, May 29. Creating such a linkage between our elections and Palestinian terrorism exposes the government's Achilles heel that both Hezbollah and the Palestinians know how to exploit in order to extract concessions.

No stable cease-fire will be obtained through Israeli approaches to diplomatic intermediaries. Iran, Syria and Lebanon interpret such moves as signs of Israeli weakness.

Israel must convince them, through non-diplomatic means as well, of the need for a ceasefire.

And when the premier explains terrorist actions on the northern border as an attempt by Iran to snuff out his government, Hezbollah reaches the opposite conclusion — that the government in Jerusalem is very worried about the possibility that the election results will be determined by the frequency of terrorist attacks before May 29.

Accordingly, Hezbollah is compelled not to miss a single opportunity to force Galilee residents into their shelters.

Israel has tried as hard as she can to avoid a blowup on the northern border. Hezbollah's leaders perceive this as an example of Israel having her hands tied and of the United States' unwillingness to permit Israel to take military initiative to root out terrorists in Lebanon.

For the sake of the peace of her Galilee citizens, and the safety of her soldiers in the security zone, Israel has no choice but to prove to Hezbollah that its conclusions are wrong. If Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria are not persuaded by Israel's declarations to act against terrorism in the north, the situation could deteriorate.

Anyone who does not want a widespread military confrontation must act right away to preempt the escalation.

The writer is a veteran Israeli journalist who wrote this column for The Jerusalem Post.