Putting decades of vicious sectarian, political and personality differences aside, Lebanon's body politic came together Wednesday night in a heartfelt display of national unity: Samir Kuntar had been brought home. After a nearly 30-year absence, there he stood before the frantic multitude, this progeny of Lebanon - whose road to manhood took him from out-of-control juvenile delinquent to adolescent child-killer to unremorseful mature terrorist - in army fatigues, waving the Lebanese and Hizbullah flags, arm outstretched in the Hizbullah salute, a manic glint in his eyes. A true son of his country. In a flash, the face of the new Lebanon was unmasked. As celebratory music helped work the crowd into a frenzy, and with Kuntar and several other released terrorists on stage as props, the real "hero" and personification of that new Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, emerged for a few moments - his first appearance since January. The Druse-born Kuntar impulsively kissed his beaming hero. Nasrallah did not reciprocate. "The age of defeats is gone, and the age of victories has come. This people, this nation gave a great and clear image today to its friends and enemies that it cannot be defeated," Nasrallah told the jubilant crowd. He was then whisked away by bodyguards to a hiding place from which he delivered the rest of his address, broadcast over a gigantic screen set up in the south Beirut square where the welcoming ceremonies were held. "One of the greatest fortunes is that the unity government welcomed the freed prisoners," Nasrallah declared. A while earlier the red carpet had been rolled out at Beirut International Airport, as warlords and politicians from rival factions welcomed Kuntar and the other released gunmen as national heroes. Druse leader Walid Jumblatt proudly recalled that his father, Kamal (assassinated by Syria), had been in the vanguard of Lebanon's Palestinian cause. Christian Maronite president Michael Aoun cited Lebanese unity in the struggle against the Jewish state and commitment to "the return of the Palestinians to their land." Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament and boss of the Shi'ite Amal movement, was there, as was "pro-American" Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, a Sunni Muslim. Rounding out the delegation were the Sunni majority leader of parliament, Saad Hariri (whose father was also assassinated by Syria) and Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun. They put aside their own differences and their disputes with Nasrallah to give each of the returning "militants" a hug and a kiss. A VITAL lesson Israeli strategists must draw from this nauseating display of perverted unity: Lebanon and Hizbullah are one. If, heaven forbid, there is another war, the IDF must wage it with ferocity - not on Hizbullah's terms, but across the Lebanese battlefield. Ever since the June 1982 Lebanon War, the Israeli military has allowed itself to be hamstrung in targeting Lebanon. International media coverage of that war, often manipulative and tendentious, along with Western - particularly US - opposition to striking at the country's infrastructure, made vanquishing our enemies impossible. Even among Israelis there was the lingering sense that Lebanon was essentially a peace-loving society taken hostage by violent, unrepresentative factions. Ultimately, that assessment reigned supreme, inhibiting the IDF from finishing Yasser Arafat off. Instead the PLO was merely ousted from its Beirut and southern Lebanon strongholds and exiled to Tunisia. But that war's unintended consequences led to an even worse outcome: Iranian-backed Shi'ite Islamism and the rise of Hizbullah. NOW THAT Lebanon and Hizbullah have apparently melded, the self-defeating legacy of IDF inhibition must end. At the start of the Second Lebanon War, former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz warned bombastically that Israel would "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years" if Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were not returned. No one took him seriously - Israel would never punish "good Lebanon" for the crimes of "bad Hizbullah." The IAF limited itself to mostly targeting Islamist strongholds. But if Lebanon and Hizbullah are now one, Israel needs a radically revised strategy for winning a war on Lebanese soil. Artificial distinctions between "Lebanese" and "Hizbullah" targets were swept away by Wednesday's display of barbaric unity. Lebanon was revealed in its hostile unanimity. If new conflict comes, Israel must internalize that unanimity of hate-filled purpose, and defeat it decisively.