Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Hamas are locked in a bloody test of wills to see who will survive the peace process.
As Rabin pushes doggedly forward with negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas aims to spill as much Jewish blood as possible.
Rabin has confirmed what Hamas stated for the first time after Monday's Jerusalem bus bombing killed four Jews: The Islamic militants aim to topple his government. Perhaps Hamas believes it stands a better chance of killing the Israel-PLO peace treaty if Likud is in power.
Rabin's vision for peace with the Palestinians, meanwhile, rests on the hope that Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat can improve his people's lot enough to stem the passion for killing Jews and isolate radicals like Hamas.
While Rabin and Hamas are battling in this power struggle, the sickening reality hits home: Hamas may likely launch more suicide bus bombings and kill more Jews, and Israel is virtually powerless to act.
There is no doubt that Rabin is doing exactly the right thing in pursuing the peace track by quickly resuming talks with the Palestinian Authority on Israel's West Bank withdrawal. Only that course provides a glimmer of hope that terrorism will fade out.
But the central question remains: What can Rabin, or any Israeli government, do to stop a young Palestinian bent on blowing himself to bits to achieve some twisted sense of martyrdom by taking out more Jews?
In fact, not much.
From a practical standpoint, Israel could seal off the West Bank, where the latest bomber came from. But such measures have not stopped the death toll in terror attacks from reaching 82 since the 1983 Israel-PLO accords.
Security in Israel could also be tightened, but there is no way to screen every person who boards every Israeli bus or walks every Israeli street. The truth is that more innocent Jews are likely to die in more monstrous attacks.
Likud leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu and some like President Ezer Weizman say continued terror proves the peace process is not working, and Arafat is not to be trusted in subduing Hamas.
Rabin in turn says Arafat has cooperated with Israeli security by pursuing Hamas in Gaza and doing his best to help crush Islamic radicalism.
What's the alternative? To stop the peace process will just bring on a bloodier intifada and more loss of lives. Rabin and Arafat have no choice but to move forward in their quest for peace.