Gaza is becoming a symbol. We rightly emphasize Israel's need to put an end to the daily, ever-widening, shelling of our civilians; indeed, it is obvious that Israel will eventually have to take military action - no country could act otherwise - to silence the guns and missile-launchers. Another aspect is equally significant and concerns the attitude of Hamas's rulers to the mounting tension: On the one hand, they are negotiating - with Egypt, not with the illegitimate Zionist entity - on a temporary cessation of hostilities. On the other hand, they authorize extending the range of their missile attacks, knowing full well that this will hasten the day in which Israel, under any government, will have to order its army to march into Gaza and strip Hamas of its power. Such is the Hamas policy: not only an endless blood-letting war against the Zionist entity, but also a readiness to lose their hold over Gaza as part of this war. This signifies a readiness not only to sacrifice the lives of men, women and children, but also a readiness to sacrifice the very regime they established not long ago through a violent coup. In other words, it is a process of political suicide writ large: The shahid is not only the individual, but the regime itself. THIS MAY sound like an extreme conclusion but, as Ari Bar Yossef, retired lieutenant-colonel and administrator of the Knesset's Security Committee, writes in the army journal Ma'arachot, such cases of Islamist national suicide are not uncommon. He cites three such examples of Arab-Muslim regimes irrationally sacrificing their very existence, overriding their instinct of self-preservation, to fight the perceived enemy to the bitter end. â€¢ The first case is that of Saddam Hussein, who in 2003 could have avoided war and conquest by allowing UN inspectors to search for (the apparently non-existent) weapons of mass destruction wherever they wanted. Yet Iraq's ruler opted for war, knowing full well that he would have to face the might of the US. â€¢ The second case is that of Yasser Arafat in 2000, who after the failure of the Camp David and Taba talks had two options: continue talking to Israel - under the leadership of Ehud Barak, this country's most moderate and flexible government ever - or resort to violence. He chose the latter, with the result that all progress toward Palestinian independence was blocked. The ensuing loss of life, on both sides, testified to Arafat's preference for suicide over compromise. â€¢ The third case is that of the Taliban. Post-9/11, their leadership had two options: to enter into negotiations with the US, with a view to extraditing Osama bin Laden, or to risk war and destruction. The choice they made was obvious: Better to die fighting than to give up an inch. IN ALL three cases, the conclusion is plain: prolonged war, death, destruction and national suicide are preferable to peaceful solutions of conflicts: Dying is preferable to negotiating with infidels. The same conclusion, of course, is applicable to the Palestinians voting for Hamas and its suicidal path, and to Iran's decision to confront the Security Council in its insistence on acquiring nuclear weapons. These cases, while unprecedented in the annals of history, should not be that surprising. If you glorify individual suicide, if death is the key to a happy afterlife, if war itself is sanctified, why not extend these ideas from the individual to the collective? To the regime itself ? Suicide is the path to both individual and national salvation. Luckily, not all Arab or Muslim regimes are like that. The vast majority of Arabs seek life, liberty and happiness. But when it comes to the hated Israel, madness rules, and not only the Iranians. It is a fact that Iran's explicit aim "to wipe Israel off the map" and its implicit threat to use nuclear weapons for this purpose are supported by many Palestinians - even though they too would be "wiped off" in the process. Suicide in the struggle against Israel has acquired a degree of legitimacy the West cannot even fathom. This unpalatable conclusion must be confronted. On the one hand, it should drive us to increase our efforts to reach some sort of modus vivendi with the PLO to decrease the impact of the fanatics (despite the fact that any such compromise will be rejected by Iran and its cohorts); while on the other hand, Israel, as well as the West, should be prepared for a long, irrational and costly war, unlike any other fought in the past. The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK as well as the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize.