Det er de radikale som profiterer på dagens situasjon, og vinner tilhengere blant meningmann i Midtøsten. Myndighetene i pragmatiske land som Egypt og Jordan fremstår som tafatte og passive. President Hosni Mubarak sier han hadde fremforhandlet en avtale om løslatelse av Gilad Shalit, men at en tredjepart kom inn og overtalte Hamas til å bakke ut.

Regional momentum is supporting hard-liners. Newspapers and television commentators have assailed Egypt and Jordan for trying to negotiate a peaceful solution between Hamas and Israel. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who planned to call a referendum on whether to support a two-state solution, has been increasingly silenced. Even the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which had sought to forge a consensus with other Palestinian factions, found itself trumped by its more militant members.

Trying to explain his own impotence, Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, told an Egyptian newspaper that he had tried to negotiate a settlement between Hamas and Israel over the capture of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. He said he had worked out a deal — but a third party pressed Hamas to back out.

Mr. Mubarak said he did not want to name the third party, but political analysts here said they believed that it was most likely Iran or Syria.

«Politically active Islamist groups like these kinds of battles because they reap misery for the people who then automatically adhere to extremist groups,» said Aly Salem, an Egyptian playwright who has supported normalizing ties with Israel, but says now that there is no margin even to discuss such ideas.

Voices of Peace Muffled by Rising Mideast Strife

Aftenpostens Per A. Christiansen unnlater ikke å forundre. Idag kan han fortelle at Israel i bunn og grunn er fornøyd med at det er de radikale som vinner over de moderate som Abbas, så slipper de å forhandle. Det er folk som Abbas de egentlig frykter, kan Christiansen røpe.

Samme Christiansen kan også fore oss med inntrykk av stemningen i Israel. Olmert skal være på dypt vann, alle savner Sharon, og maktbruken er kontraproduktiv.

Mr Olmert also has the overwhelming support of the Israeli people for avenging their country’s ignominious retreat from Lebanon in May 2000, leaving Hezbollah claiming victory.

Banner front-page headlines in Israeli newspapers yesterday included «Smash Hezbollah», «The Target: Nasrallah» and «Beirut Will Pay».

Normally moderate Israeli analysts praised Mr Olmert, a lawyer, for reversing the «errors» of his military predecessors, who allowed Hezbollah to move right up to Lebanon’s border with Israel.

«This was a very bad gamble,» Alex Fishman of Yedioth Ahronoth wrote of Hezbollah’s attack on Wednesday. «(Israel) is acting as if every valve that had been locked for six years has been released and all restraints are off. Everything is permissible.»

Artillery, rockets and tanks mass along the border

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