ANALYSIS: Hezbollah's Strategic Kidnapping

Hezbollah merged the fates of the soldiers it abducted, creating an equation that will prevent separate deals.

The plan to carry out an attack in order to grant Hezbollah bargaining chips could have been deduced in April, when the group's secretary general Hassan Nasrallah said, "[Lebanese prisoner] Samir Kuntar will be freed very shortly by way of the opposition's blood and tears."

Even if the abduction of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers on the Israel-Lebanon border Wednesday had no connection to the Palestinian arena, its timing is not irrelevant to the Palestinians.

Two days after Hamas' Damascus-based political leader, Khaled Meshal, dictated the terms for negotiating with Israel over the release of Gilad Shalit, Nasrallah decided to carry out a strategic kidnapping to turn himself into the "Great Liberator."

Nasrallah thus merged the fates of the soldiers abducted Wednesday with that of Gilad Shalit, creating an equation that will prevent the Palestinians from making a separate deal with Israel that does not ensure the release of the two soldiers abducted by the Lebanese-based guerilla group.

Nasrallah is now presenting himself as the most earnest defender of Palestinian interests in the Arab world. One can assume that his demands, which have not yet been detailed, will include the release of Palestinian prisoners. Conversely, merging the fates of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners will naturally obligate the Palestinians to coordinate their demands with Hezbollah.

The abduction on the Israel's northern border limits the Palestinians' bargaining room, because they never intended to turn Shalit's abduction into a regional affair.

Hezbollah has also become Syria's means of exacting revenge for the Israel Air Force's low-altitude flight over the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad. However, Hezbollah's assumption of this role will not necessary work to the benefit of Damascus, which is under great pressure to help mediate Shalit's release.

Against the backdrop of the new abductions and the close relationship between Syria and Hezbollah, the public praise of the Lebanese guerilla group by Syrian officials is likely to turn Damascus into a direct target of an Israeli attack.