The New York Post

July 22, 2006 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in the Middle East tomorrow, and there is no mistaking the magnitude of the task at hand: effecting an end to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah - without leaving things right where they were before it began.

Critics of the Bush administration have been pressing for a cease-fire, any cease-fire - though that would do little other than give the Iranian-backed terrorists an opportunity to retrench and rearm.

As Rice herself put it: "If you simply look for a cease-fire . . . we will be back here in six months again. What I won't do is go to some place and try to get a cease-fire that I know isn't going to last."

Indeed, she added, "an immediate cease-fire without political conditions does not make sense."

Nor will she sit down to negotiate with parties that have no genuine interest in finding a diplomatic solution to the problem - namely Hezbollah and its other patron, Syria. "Syria knows what it needs to do, and Hezbollah is the source of the problem," said the secretary.

Which pretty much sums up the situation - and the only way to resolve it.

As Rice noted, it is unacceptable for a group like Hezbollah to keep one foot in the political process and the other in the world of terror. Which is why her emphasis will be on implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 - which demands the disarming of Hezbollah.

And if, in the process, she can put together a coalition of Arab states (including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) that are fearful enough of the Iranian-Syrian threat to actively counter Hezbollah, so much the better - both for the short-term goal of defusing Iran's political gamesmanship and the long-term struggle against Islamist terrorism.

Because if no meaningful agreement is reached, then Lebanon's pain will only increase.

Israel is poised to launch a ground offensive - a difficult, but altogether necessary, step. Israel cannot, and will not, put up with missiles raining down on its cities.

America wouldn't.

We wish Secretary Rice luck on her mission. She'll certainly need it.