The first news about the bombing of a tourist bus in Burgas, a resort in Bulgaria, came at about 7:15 PM on Wednesday. From then on we returned to the routine of the intifada. Piece by piece bits of information about a bus full of young Israelis who arrived on a recent flight. There were casualties. Then there were deaths. I thought about the families in Israel of those who traveled to Burgas, but who would not know who was on that bus, if they were hurt or killed.
Indications pointed to Iran and Hizbollah. Eighteen years ago to the day operatives with connections to the top of the Iranian regime bombed a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.
Among the worries are the next acts in this conflict, perhaps an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, followed by missiles coming from Iran, Lebanon, and Gaza, what Israel would do in response, as well as Iranian attacks on American ships and bases, and where that would lead.
After recent meetings between senior American and Israeli personnel, Americans said they remain unsure about Israeli intentions.
This could be disinformation meant to keep the Iranians on edge, or Israeli ambiguity meant to spur Americans and others to increase sanctions. The claim of ambiguity may reflect American and Israeli cooperation, meant to pressure European governments wavering on tougher sanctions. We hear that the Iranians are hurting economically, but not that Iranian leaders are rethinking their nuclear intentions.
The ambiguity may be a serious message from Israel to the United States and others, reflecting frustrations that there is no sign of a change in Iranian policy. One might expect an Israeli gesture to the United States in avoiding an attack until after the election, but maybe not.
There are also reasons to worry about Syria. Wednesday''s early media focus--before Burgas--was an attack that wiped out a substantial number of the Syrians leading the fight against rebels. Thursday morning''s news was that Assad''s wife and children had gone to Russia, and that Assad himself left Damascus for a more secure site elsewhere in Syria.
Thursday noon rebels were battling government forces outside the presidential palace in Damascus.
I hope we''ll be spared clips like that of Muammar Qadaffi''s last moments, but there will be some of that directed against captured soldiers and officers, if not the president himself.
Syrian forces have shelled rebels near the Israeli border on the Golan, the IDF has cancelled weekend leaves, and increased its level of alert.
Few expect a smooth transition to a stable government able to control the country. We don''t hear the word "democracy" in the commentaries. Chaos, bloodshed, and ethnic slaughter are more likely.
Israelis with the responsibility for worrying about such things are concerned about Syria''s chemical weapons. They have threatened large scale warfare if they find their way to Hizbollah.
The good news is that Iran and Hizbollah are losing a key ally in the Assad regime.
The bad news is that extremist Sunnis, with elements of al Quaida, will contend for control. They not only oppose the Shiites of Iran and Lebanon, but may also be fanatic with respect to Alewite, Christian, Druze, and Kurdish minorities in Syria, and have more aspirations toward Israel than those of Assad or his father.
Not in today''s headlines are Israel''s election, Haredi and Arab service in the IDF or some alternative, the future of higher education in Ariel, social reforms kept on the agenda by weekly demonstrations, settlements in the West Bank, or peace with Palestinians. A messianic Jew provoked a brief spat by sending copies of the New Testament to all Members of Knesset. Some cursed missionaries and a book that had fueled two millennia of persecution. A MK who views Meir Kahane as his personal hero earned a rebuke from the Knesset chair when he desecrated the New Testament, and an Arab MK earned a rebuke when he desecrated a picture of Meir Kahane.
All that pales alongside Burgas'' reminder of exploding buses, Iran''s nuclear program, and what comes next across the border in Syria.