ISTANBUL – A Lebanese man from Beirut, an Iranian man from Tehran and an Israeli woman from Tel Aviv create a closed circle in a bid to analyze the motives and ramifications of the targeted killing in the Golan Heights.
It sounds like a delusional story or the beginning of a bad joke, but it's exactly what happened this week in Istanbul, on the sidelines of the conference on Turkey's foreign and domestic policy affairs.
In these kinds of conferences, barriers are moved. The Iranian, like the Lebanese and the Saudi and anyone whose country doesn’t maintain open relations with us, speak under clear rules of the game: The Israelis don't reveal the names, so that the other side can return home safely – until the next conference.
The Lebanese, a Christian, fails to hide his satisfaction. "If I could, I would say thank you out loud. Well done, Israel," he surprises me. "Hezbollah should go to hell already with all the destruction it is bringing upon Lebanon."
In the same breath, he expresses concern: "(Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan) Nasrallah is under pressure now. Two senior officials in Tehran – the Revolutionary Guards' commander and the head of intelligence – rushed to make him promise that Hezbollah would respond firmly and deal Israel some painful blows."
This assassination, the Lebanese analyzes, is solid proof that Israel has senior moles deep within the organization. And when Nasrallah keeps quiet, Iran wakes him up. There isn't more incriminating evidence of the series of orders issued to Hezbollah from Tehran. The head of the snake is the Revolutionary Guards, and the hands are Hezbollah's. Tehran is operating the organization's members in Syria, and the Guards are disregarding the Lebanese regime's sovereignty. Tehran is setting Hezbollah's operational agenda along the border with Israel.
The Lebanese is filled with anger over the state within the state that Hezbollah is imposing in Lebanon, insolently bypassing the government institutions. In his nightmares, he sees the expected destruction in Lebanon if Hezbollah attacks targets within Israel and the IDF respond without thinking.
He swears that the story of the Second Lebanon War will not repeat itself. "I can't see the civilian establishment and the Christian-Maronite intelligentsia of Beirut taking in the thousands of members of the Shiite faction who will flee the south."
The Iranian responds with a crooked smile to the "clarification" issued from Jerusalem about the killing of the senior general from Tehran. "A cover-up apology," he defines it. He doesn’t believe that our intelligence didn’t know who traveled to Quneitra or that the decision makers got caught in an operational error.
I ask the Iranian, who has close ties to Tehran's intelligence organizations as part of his job, what are Iranian officers doing on Quneitra's hills together with a Hezbollah operational cell. He doesn't try to sell me fairytales.
"It's a game conducted with open cards. Iran sits deep inside Syria. Iran is Hezbollah's oxygen, and you know very well that there is a lot of activity taking place on the ground," he says. "You, with your new allies from the Jabhat al-Nusra terror organization and the rebels against Bashar (Assad), are building the 'new SLA' (South Lebanon Army) and the Good Fence on Syrian territory, against Iran and Hezbollah."
The Israeli citizen, I tell the Iranian, is concerned. The Iranian says he sees in his imagination a possibility that they won't respond. Whoever is planning it, I say, won't share it with you.
"You are an aggressive enemy," he accuses. "We are a more sophisticated enemy. We have patience. Like the senior Tehran officials said, the responsibility lies on Hezbollah's shoulders. If they decide to act, they will receive full backing."
The Iranian sees it fit to complain to me about the bad timing. When there is an opportunity, I say, the calendar isn’t checked twice.
"We've gotten to know (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu," the Iranian comments. "It's not because of your elections. He was looking for an opportunity to torpedo our reconciliation agreement with the Americans."