Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is a very intelligent man, and I think he’s one of the positive forces in Israel’s leadership. He’s started interviewing failed suicide bombers (link via kottke.org) personally. I thought his comments based on interviews with two potential suicide bombers were exactly right:
That the environmental factor is the key – not the socioeconomic situation, or whether they’re working or unemployed, or the years of oppression and built-up frustration, or whether they’re educated or not. These parameters have weight, but it is marginal. Above all, it has to do with the person’s character and how susceptible he or she is to pressure and persuasion. There’s an entire system with its sights set on this satanic aim. It operates entirely in order to produce human bombs. As soon as they identified him as suitable, they trapped him like a fish in a net. These suicide bombers aren’t created out of nowhere. They aren’t born like that. The Islamic Jihad and the Tanzim and Hamas find them. It’s the most cynical and cruel exploitation of human lives, of young people’s lives especially. The weak, like him, are caught.
There are lots of reasons Israel should change its relations with the Palestinians, but I think that the only way to end the suicide bombings is to put an end to the organizations that run the suicide bombing programs. It’s pretty clear from his comments and from what I’ve thought before that the suicide bombing program is almost like cult recruitment. You find people with the right set of psychological weaknesses and then you indoctrinate them.
I don’t think that the Israeli military is going to be able to crush the terrorist organizations. Rather, I think that the Palestinian people are going to have to reject them. When the Palestinians decide that having groups like Tanzim, and Hamas, and Islamic Jihad in their midst is more trouble than it’s worth, then they’ll disappear. Sure there will always be fringe elements that want to destroy Israel, but the pressure Israel puts on the Palestinians moves them into the mainstream.