Never in Israel's history, to paraphrase Churchill, has so much harm been inflicted on so many by so few. Since the onset of the second intifada in late September 2000, dozens of exploding humans -- Palestinian H-bombs -- have rocked the Jewish state and transformed the lives of its people. As little as a year ago, suicide bombings were seen as a gruesome aberration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an expression of religious fanaticism that most Palestinians rejected. But in recent months a new, unsettling reality has emerged: the acceptance and legitimation of the practice among all Palestinian political and military factions.
Increasingly, Palestinians are coming to see suicide attacks as a strategic weapon, a poor man's "smart bomb" that can miraculously balance Israel's technological prowess and conventional military dominance. Palestinians appear to have decided that, used systematically in the context of a political struggle, suicide bombings give them something no other weapon could: the ability to cause Israel devastating and unprecedented pain. The dream of achieving such strategic parity is more powerful than any pressure to cease and desist. It is therefore unlikely that the strategy will be abandoned, even as its continued use pushes the Middle East ever closer to the abyss.
FROM MORTARS TO MARTYRS
The Palestinian endorsement of suicide bombings as a legitimate tool of war was not hasty. At the start of the second intifada, the Palestinians' preferred method of fighting was based on the strategy that Hezbollah used to drive the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) out of southern Lebanon after 15 years of occupation -- a mix of guerrilla tactics such as ambushes, drive-by shootings, and attacks on IDF outposts. It was thought that the "Lebanonization" of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would cause the Israeli public to view these territories as security liabilities (as they had with southern Lebanon), and to pressure the government to withdraw once more.
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's division of labor was clear. His political wing, Fatah, authorized its paramilitary units,
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