Mad Logic

This week’s deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv is a crime against humanity and a reminder of the threat Israelis face every day. Nothing more should need saying, except that people of good will everywhere share the grief of the stricken.

Considered in the context of the week’s other headlines, however, the bombing is much more. It is another piece of a terrifying puzzle that confronts policy-makers in Israel, America and throughout the West, a puzzle whose name is Iran.

No, Iran was not the direct author of this bombing. It appears to have been the work of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a gaggle of Palestinian thugs loosely connected to the deposed Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas. It is an open secret, however, that the al-Aqsa gangs have fallen under the increasing influence of the highly disciplined Islamic Jihad, Iran’s agents in the territories, and of Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian surrogate in Lebanon.

Iran’s goal in the territories is to wreck any chance of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. That’s why nearly every major act of terrorism staged during the past 14 months, since the February 2005 cease-fire agreement between two largest Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, has been authored by Islamic Jihad. But the al-Aqsa brigades are fast learners. Some see their rise as a sign of growing chaos. It’s better seen as Iran’s handiwork.

And consider this: The latest bombing comes just a day after Iran publicly pledged a major gift — variously reported at $50 million to $100 million — to help bail the Palestinian Authority out of the financial crisis brought on by the electoral victory of Hamas. The authority’s main sources of funding, including Israel, America, Europe and Japan, have rightly shut the taps since legislative control was captured by a group that openly rejects Israel’s existence and endorses terrorism.

The West’s goal is a transformation — or collapse — of Hamas. If common humanity cannot make Hamas change its ways, it is thought, then perhaps the needs of its own people might.

But Iran has its own means of pressure. Between the tug of Tehran’s millions and the push of its violent surrogates, Hamas is tipped backward. They are not natural allies, the Shi’ite republic and the Sunni fundamentalist party. But the mullahs are persuasive.

Nor is Hamas the only party caught in a vise. Every step Hamas takes toward Iran threatens Israeli interests and Israeli lives. Hamas has not staged a deadly attack since August 2004. That’s what Iran wants to change.

Like the ever-mounting nuclear threat, Iran’s Palestinian threat has no easy answers. A good place to start, however, is by acknowledging the nature of the enemy. Many in the West have taken to regarding the mullahs of Tehran as mad bombers, beyond reasoning. As we keep learning, they’re crazy like a fox.

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