Let's Play a Trick on Them

Israel's longing for German soldiers who will keep the Galilee safe with the aid of the Lebanese Army, which is full of Shiite soldiers, is as sad as the case of the patient with a metastasized cancer who refuses to enter the operating room for thorough treatment and instead seeks salvation in aspirin.

At the start of the conflict, when nobody imagined that this "gang" would manage to kill dozens of Israelis and paralyze one-fifth of the country, Olmert said that it was an Iranian "trick." In other words, the disease is Iran's nuclear program, which is approaching fruition, and Tehran's goal of expanding the arc of Shiite influence in the region. Hezbollah is merely a malignant Iranian growth that was ordered to distract the world's attention from the real danger. If so, its temporary repulsion to a distance of a few kilometers from the northern border is no more than superficial treatment of one of the symptoms of the disease.

Ehud Olmert's diagnosis received backing last week from Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. "Iran serves as an example and a paradigm for Hezbollah, and also assists it, due to the love that we Muslims, and particularly the Shiites, feel for each other," he said. "The Iranians' faith, tactics and experience are being applied in Lebanon." Rezai also stated explicitly that "Iran's national security is tied to the security of Palestine and Syria" and promised that the war in Lebanon "will surely spread" to those areas as well.

Israel's success in the second Lebanon War will not be measured by how many missiles or Hezbollah guerrillas it liquidates in Lebanon. The numerous casualties that this war is causing, among both Israel's citizens and the Lebanese people, will not be in vain only if we are able to block the Iranian metastasis. Just as it is not in Israel's power to stop Iran from enriching uranium, Israel alone is clearly not capable of defeating the terrorist organizations that operate under Iran's direction.

The war in Lebanon, despite the cruel bombing of downtown Beirut, has proven that Iran is capable of uniting large swathes of the region against the threat of Shiite extremism. The best news to emerge from this war was the open and veiled condemnations of Hezbollah by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. In the war's early days, before the extent of the destruction of Beirut had become clear and before the disaster in Qana, our neighbors did not conceal their joy over the distress of Iran's emissaries.

The Arab rulers have absorbed a good deal of abuse and scorn for this, such as the taunts of the Syrian government paper Tishrin, which termed them "a flock of rulers whose very flesh is weak ... Leaders ruled by the erroneous idea that the people are powerless, or incapable of fighting." Yet in practice, Syria itself has been careful to avoid active intervention in the war taking place on its doorstep, and has been sending messages about its desire to be extricated from the Axis of Evil.

Israeli government spokesmen have talked a great deal about our joint front with our Arab neighbors against the Iranian threat. However, this coalition cannot win as long as Israel refuses to conduct negotiations over the fate of lands that most of the world believes it must return to the Arabs. The Iranian leaders know exactly why they are spending billions of dollars on rejectionist organizations in the territories and Syria: As long as the Israeli occupation remains in the headlines, it will be possible to incite the Arab street against moderate leaders and to brandish the West's "double standard."

Has Iran "played a trick on us?" Then we should show it that we also know something about tricks. Iran sicced Hassan Nasrallah on us to divert attention from its nuclear program? Then the Israeli government should inform the Security Council that it is ready for an immediate cease-fire in the north and a resumption of negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. It should also urge the international community to sponsor a Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

In exchange, Israel can demand that the Security Council add another word - "terrorism" - to the words "nuclear threat" in its resolution on sanctions against Iran. That would constitute true victory in the war against the cancer. All the rest is mere public relations.