Rice Defends Israel, Calls Criticisms of Bush Policy 'Grotesque'

ByABC News
July 16, 2006, 9:14 AM

July 16, 2006 — -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Israel's right to counter the terrorist group Hezbollah's deadliest rocket attacks in a decade, and resisted calls for an immediate cease-fire.

She told "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," "We support, at this point, an effort to make certain that when there is a cease-fire that it is one that is sustainable."

Rice rejected the notion that U.S. operations in Iraq have shaken Middle East stability, arguing, "Those hostilities were not very well contained, as we found out on Sept. 11, and so the notion that somehow policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque."

"For all of those who believe that we somehow had stability in the Middle East over the last 60 years and it's now been disturbed: Where do we think Hezbollah and Hamas and these other extremist forces came from?" she added. "They weren't born yesterday, these forces have been developing and threatening the Middle East and arresting positive developments for decades."

Rice defended Israel's right to counter the attacks.

"No state is going to sit and allow rockets to be fired into its country and not defend its citizens," she said. "While Israel defends itself, we would hope that it does it in a way that preserves the way for a broader peace."

Rice described President Bush as "deeply engaged" in the Middle East crisis.

"The president has spoke out clearly about Israel's right to defend itself," she said.

But Rice refused to outline the Bush administration's position on a possible strike against Syria, which has ties to Hezbollah.

"I'm not going to go into hypothetical issues here," Rice told Stephanopoulos, "but obviously Iran is involved."

"Iran is financing Hezbollah," she added. "Iran is providing technology. Syria is harboring Hezbollah. So yes, what you have here [is] that extremist forces -- Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iran and the Syrians -- recognize that they are facing a different kind of Middle East, the emergence of a different kind of Middle East in which moderate forces will dominate, and they want to stop it. We have to be equally determined that they can't stop it."