If the strategy of assassinations - it is no longer accurate to qualify them as them "pinpoint prevention" - was "only" controversial up until yesterday, yesterday the structural flaw inherent in the policy was proven.

The missiles that failed to killing Abdel Aziz Rantisi in Gaza City - but killed bystanders including a woman and a child - continued on their trajectory towards Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and from there to Aqaba, Sharm al Sheikh, and Washington.

Ostensibly, it was a matter of miserable timing. When Abu Mazen is making every effort to achieve dialogue with the Hamas and the other refusal organizations, when Egypt is striving to achieve a truce and was intending to send intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to twist a few arms in the Hamas yesterday, when the Palestinian Authority is fending off attacks from the Palestinian public for being "an Israeli-American project," Israel could not have played better into the hands of the opponents to the road map.

From the Palestinian perspective, in which the assassination attempt was aimed at the diplomatic process, there's an appendix that buttresses their view: This was not an operation that required hard-to-get, up-to-the-minute, intelligence information or a one-time opportunity. Rantisi's home address is not a secret, he appears in TV studios and on the street - anyone who wanted an opportunity could have seen Rantisi and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on the main street in Gaza City on Monday having a long conversation.

Therefore the PA has only one answer to the question why Israel decided to eliminate Rantisi now and not several months ago, when there was no dialogue with the PA and when there was no Israeli commitment to the road map - Israel wanted to stop the peace process.

It was not only a matter of execrable timing but also a decision in principle that is liable to upset the balance of power in the territories. Assassinating Palestinian leaders, even if they are contaminated with terrorist activities, is not like the assassination of rank and file terrorists. While the latter disappear relatively quickly from memory, this is not the case when they are leaders. Senior PA officials were already talking yesterday about how "thanks to Israel, the Hamas now has another national hero who at least in the near future will dictate the atmosphere."

The net gain in the meantime is for the Hamas movement. Abu Mazen's efforts to get the Palestinian public to internalize the cancellation of the armed intifada and to put the brakes on the ideology of violent uprising that the rejectionist organizations want to continue, have suffered a resounding slap in the face.

The assassination attempt has created a situation in which the PA, including those who loathe the Hamas, has been forced to demonstrate solidarity with its most difficult political rival. The Hamas movement has made the cessation of assassinations a major condition for a truce; the assassination attempt is liable to make this condition the official position of the PA.

From the point of view of the Hamas movement, even if the attempt succeeded, it would not have damaged the "infrastructure." Rantisi is one of five prominent leaders at the national level (apart from the leadership that lives outside the territories) and one of 10 regional leaders.

He is perhaps the vehement spokesman against the road map and has posed the main obstacle to the PA proposals for a truce.

However, the movement's decisions are not taken on the basis of a single opinion but rather in consultation among the heads of the leadership. On Monday, for example, the movement did not respond directly to Abu Mazen's press conference, but postponed its reaction until a consultation could be held among the leaders inside the territories and elsewhere. Thus, making Rantisi a target does not hurt the decision-making process in the Hamas, neither for coordination with the terror cells nor in the system of contacts between the Hamas and the PA.

Not only the Hamas has raked in a huge propaganda profit from the assassination attempt. Another winner is Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who can "prove" that his claims against Israel are true: It is Israel that is shattering the road map, as some of his aides said yesterday. Syrian President Bashar Assad is also pleased with the situation in which the PA, Jordan and Egypt, look as though they have fallen into the net cast by Israel and Washington.