The border raid by Hezbollah that sparked swift and strong Israeli military reaction in southern Lebanon was not only an act of war by Hezbollah, but an act of war by proxy by Iran. It is inconceivable that such a provocative act could have been undertaken without the knowledge and approval of people at the highest levels of Iran's government.
The warfare was even foreshadowed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in a burst of inflammatory rhetoric warned in advance that Israel would be hit by an "explosion" of Muslim anger.
"The fury of Muslim nations is getting more intense," Ahmadinejad said. "It is likely to reach an explosion point soon. If this day arrives, the shockwaves of this blast will not be restricted within our regional boundaries and will strike the supporters of this fake regime."
The day after the Iranian president uttered those words, the attack was launched by the Hezbollah terrorist organization that Iran founded and funds.
Congress rightly has condemned Hezbollah for "engaging in unprovoked and reprehensible armed attacks against Israel on undisputed Israeli territory." The House passed a resolution by a vote of 410 to 8 supporting "Israel's right to defend itself, including the right to conduct operations in Israel and in the territory of nations which pose a threat to it."
Hezbollah, Hamas and Ahmadinejad have all declared that their policy is the destruction of Israel. They advocate the ethnic cleansing of 5 million Israeli Jews. They advocate genocide. In their quest for peace, Israeli leaders have made concessions, but now the terrorists are using the very territory from which Israel has withdrawn to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. Israel withdrew from Gaza, and now kidnappers and missiles come from Gaza into Israel. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, now kidnappers and missiles come into Israel from southern Lebanon.
The Israelis must know that when they vacate a territory, it will not be used as a rocket-launching pad against Israel, and that if it ever is, that Israel will have the full support of the United States. We all want peace, but we cannot have peace; we cannot have any Israeli territorial concessions unless Israel knows that those concessions will be met with goodwill, not missiles.
There are some who say the Israeli reaction has been "disproportionate." It cannot be overstated that the recent outbreak of warfare was not simply a reaction to one event. The truth is that there have been five kidnapping raids and hundreds of missiles fired during six years of attacks. If anyone is going to say that Israel's reaction is disproportionate, let them say that Israel is doing too little.
There also are those who have called for a cease-fire. I hope we get there soon. But this all started with rockets and kidnapping, and it would be a phony cease-fire unless the soldiers are returned, and unless Hezbollah is disarmed as required by U.N. Resolution 1559.
There are those who talk of prisoner exchanges, but we should not tell Israel to exchange the guilty for the innocent. Some have called for the release of women and minors held in Israeli prisons. Yet is it clear that terrorist organizations have increasingly used minors and women to perpetrate suicide attacks. It was, after all, a woman who was arrested in 2001 for helping to carry out the bombing of a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including seven children. It is also the stark reality that teenagers have been caught carrying pipe bombs and attempting suicide attacks. Should Israel release those who would resume their terror?
World opinion matters in the Middle East. We should step up our efforts to help our friends in Israel. The United States should spearhead diplomatic efforts to isolate the terrorists who have targeted Israel. We should call every major ambassador from Europe and demand that Europe list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. We should insist that European governments prevent their residents from sending money to Hezbollah. Finally, we must demand that the World Bank stop making concessionary loans aid to Iran, the source of the money and the missiles that Hezbollah is firing on Israeli civilians.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is a senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and the ranking Democrat on its International Terrorism and Nonproliferation Subcommittee.