Between Cease-fire and Flame-fanning

Israel has pushed itself into a corner where the only choice remaining is between a unity government with Haniyeh and Abbas, and a Hamas movement led by Meshal-Ahmadinejad.

Some people believe that the government is intensifying the conflict in the Gaza Strip in order to promote the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Others are buying the story that the Shin Bet security services arrested the Hamas ministers to bring them to trial for criminal offenses. Those in favor of "an eye for an eye" believe that bombing the power plant in Gaza reduces the danger that Hamas fighters will target the power plant in Ashkelon. And there are people who don't care why the Israelis and the Palestinians are destroying their own lives. On the contrary: They are pleased that the two players are adhering to the scenario of a Middle East version of a Greek tragedy. This camp is headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian president knows that when Israel bombs Gaza, it is more difficult for the international community to pressure his country to respond to the ultimatum on the atom bomb. Decision-makers in Jerusalem are aware of Tehran's link to the tension in the territories. Two weeks before the incident at Kerem Shalom, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that there is Iranian involvement behind the violent activity against Israel. He noted that Hezbollah, the long arm of Tehran, has tripled the rate of transferal of funding to the resistance organizations.

During the present crisis Hezbollah has been adding fuel to the fire. Whenever it seems that Hamas is tending toward a compromise, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah agitates in favor of raising the price for the release of the captive. Khaled Meshal, the leader of "external Hamas," and a frequent traveler to Tehran, pours fire and brimstone on any spokesman from "internal Hamas" who dares to offer a cease-fire. The "spontaneous demonstrations" against Israel all over Iran, reknown for its freedom of expression, do not testify to any great concern for the fate of distant Arab relatives.

The noise being made by Iran contrasts to the silence of the United States and Europe. It illustrates the claim of the double standard in the attitude of the world toward the Israeli occupation and Iran's nuclear policy. Iran does not miss an opportunity to use the harsh pictures from Gaza in order to present Egypt, Jordan and the other friends of the United States in the region as collaborators with the Great Satan and its small Zionist partner. If the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza contributed to Hamas' rise to power, and its concomitant responsibility to provide food to residents, then entering Gaza and deposing the Hamas leadership will turn the movement back into a terrorist organization dependent on Iran.

Israel has pushed itself into a corner where the only choice remaining is between a unity government with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas, and a Hamas movement led by Meshal-Ahmadinejad - between a cease-fire and fanning the flames.

As opposed to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, in which everyone loses, in the Israeli-Iranian arena there is a zero-sum game. The cease-fire being proposed clandestinely by the Hamas government, with the support of Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah, is unacceptable to Meshal and the Iranians. Thus, this is a proposal that Israel must not reject under any circumstances.

The Israeli government, as is its wont, has climbed a tall tree, and is becoming entrenched there in total opposition to its own interests. It insists that first the soldier be released, and afterward we will hold our fire, and perhaps will agree to talk about the release of prisoners. The Palestinians, as is their wont, are climbing up after their neighbors. They are demanding that Israel first hold fire and agree to release prisoners, and then they will release Shalit and stop firing Qassam rockets.

Dr. Mustafa Mazini, a lecturer in the natural sciences department of the Islamic University and the son-in-law of assassinated Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, this week suggested a ladder that will allow everyone to climb down from their trees. In an interview on the Hamas Web site, Mazini suggested counting to three together - and carrying out a deal simultaneously. It's such an obvious solution that there is no chance that the Israeli government will adopt it. After all, this is a matter of "Israel's power of deterrence." But that power was lost along with the decision that was made to withdraw from Gaza without an agreement, so what remains is the prestige of a handful of politicians and the honor of a gang of generals.