U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the figure leading the strategy of changing the situation in Lebanon, not Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or Defense Minister Amir Peretz. She has so far managed to withstand international pressure in favor of a cease-fire, even though this will allow Hezbollah to retain its status as a militia armed by Iran and Syria.

As such, she needs military cards, and unfortunately Israel has not succeeded to date in providing her with any. Besides bringing Hezbollah and Lebanon under fire, all of Israel's military cards at this stage are in the form of two Lebanese villages near the border that have been captured by the IDF.

If the military cards Israel is holding do not improve with the continuation of the fighting, it will result in a diplomatic solution that will leave the Hezbollah rocket arsenal in southern Lebanon in its place. The diplomatic solution will necessarily be a reflection of the military realities on the ground.

Also from the Syrian perspective there seems to be a contradiction between the American strategy and the steps Israel has taken with regards to Syria. Washington wants the solution to the problem of Hezbollah as a militia to be found in Lebanon. There are those in Washington who are recommending a connection to Syria must be found on this matter, but at the State Department and the White House they say this would simply invite Syria back into Lebanon, and this should not be allowed.

Damascus must be worried about a foiling of the American-Lebanese diplomatic plans. Syrian concerns should have stemmed from Israel, but for days now Israel is doing everything possible to convince Damascus it is not in any danger. If there is no danger from Israel, Damascus can certainly allow itself to undermine any possible plan meant to weaken and defeat Hezbollah. It will act on its own and with Iran without any fear.

Israel has limited options for continuing the fighting. Since it has not succeeded to date to restrict Hezbollah's war of attrition against urban centers in Israel, including the targeting of Afula, the only option is a rapid operation for the capture of southern Lebanon in order to destroy the Hezbollah rocket arsenal prior to the transfer of a multinational force to the area. It may have other serious options, but these will not affect the rocket arsenal of Hezbollah. This is a race against time and against Hezbollah that is aided by Syria and Iran.

The further along the diplomatic process moves, international pressure will be exercised against Israel, including by the Americans, calling for an end to the targeting of Lebanese infrastructure. There is no point mobilizing reserve divisions if they are not going to be used appropriately, from a strategic point of view, before the end of the war.

The argument voiced is that the divisions are not adequately trained because of the cuts to the defense budget and it is not acceptable in view of the situation Israel is in. This is not the right time to blame the Finance Ministry, and it is not the only one to blame.