Brig.-Gen. Yossi Beiditz, head of the IDF's Intelligence Wing Research Division, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hizbullah has "returned to its pre-war capabilities, and has even become stronger."

Beiditz was asked more than once by committee members if he meant that Hizbullah was now stronger, and he responded in the affirmative - until Defense Minister Amir Peretz stepped in.

Peretz said, "Hizbullah has not increased its strength, but merely its potential." Beiditz quickly agreed with Peretz, arousing a storm of protest from opposition MKs.

MK Limor Livnat (Likud) told the Maariv newspaper, "I view this with great gravity - first to know that Hizbullah is stronger than before the war, as Gen. Beiditz described, and also to know that the head of the IDF's Intelligence Wing Research Division gets in line with comments made to him by the Defense Minister. We asked Beiditz a few times about Hizbullah, and he said yes, Hizbullah has become stronger. He described the situation, and it is not correct that the Defense Minister should correct him."

MK Silvan Shalom, Israel's Foreign Minister from 2003 until 2006, also railed against Peretz's intervention. "If Hizbullah continues to get stronger than it was before the war," he said, "this proves that the war was a failure."

Just a few days ago, Hizbullah terrorist chieftain Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah bragged publicly about the continuing smuggling of weapons into southern Lebanon. "We say this openly; after all, we didn't fight Israel with sticks, but with rockets," he said. "Israel doesn't know where we are hiding them."

Nasrallah added that Hizbullah would not disarm, as called for in the ceasefire agreement ending last summer's war.

Hizbullah fired some 4,000 Katyusha rockets at Israel last summer, killing 41 civilians (including 17 Arabs and Druze); 119 soldiers were also killed in the war. It was estimated that Hizbullah had not used even half of its rocket strength.