JERUSALEM, JAN. 9 -- The Israeli government is again lobbying Washington to destroy the military machine of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, arguing that if it is not done now it will have to be done later at greater cost.

At the same time, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and other senior officials are openly articulating concerns that Israel will come under pressure from the U.S.-led alliance once the Persian Gulf crisis ends. Israel may be asked to make concessions to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, officials say, whether or not Iraq is vanquished.

Meeting today with a 25-member U.S. congressional delegation led by Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), Foreign Minister David Levy bluntly spelled out Israel's hawkish views on Iraq. If the U.N. deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait passes Tuesday "and nothing happens to {Saddam}, it will already be a victory for him," Levy said.

He said that even an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would mean a triumph for Saddam. "Why? Because Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction will remain intact, and he will have the possibility to continue to develop an atom bomb," Levy said, according to a tape made available by his office. "If the U.S. withdraws from the area, in another two years he will dictate to the whole Middle East and North Africa."

Aides said Levy hoped his words might sway the U.S. legislators as they return from a trip through the region to a debate in Congress Thursday on whether to authorize the use of force against Iraq. Levy said he was not trying to push the United States into war, but he argued forcefully that a confrontation with Saddam must come now, or later -- "in much more difficult circumstances."

{Following Secretary of State James A. Baker III's talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva, Levy told Israeli television Wednesday night he was "very happy" Baker had "repeated the very principles he wrote to us and was faithful to them," the Reuter news agency reported. Levy was referring to the U.S. refusal to link an Iraqi pullout to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as demanded by Baghdad.}

Levy's meeting with the congressional delegation followed a telephone call Monday evening by Shamir in which he sought to bolster President Bush against Saddam, officials said.

Shamir sought "to strengthen {Bush}, to show him solidarity and support," said Avi Pazner, a senior aide to Shamir. Other officials said Shamir repeated the argument that Saddam must not be allowed to survive with his military arsenal intact.

Both Shamir and Levy have recently expressed concern that Israel would face new pressure from the United States and its allies for concessions to the Palestinians after the crisis, almost regardless of its outcome. Israel fears it would be pressed to participate in a Middle East peace conference or withdraw from the occupied territories, steps Shamir has vowed never to take.

At a cabinet meeting Sunday, Levy declared that Iraq had succeeded in creating "a psychological linkage" of its occupation of Kuwait to Israel's hold on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reported.