Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg is a senior correspondent for The Prospect. He is the author of The Unmaking of Israel, of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and of The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He blogs at South Jerusalem. Follow @GershomG.

Recent Articles

The Simmering Sinai

Despite border clashes, Israel must keep itself out of Egypt's roiling politics.

(AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
The polls had closed a few hours earlier in Cairo, after two days of voting for a president who may or may not have any power. The Muslim Brotherhood was preparing to claim victory. Meanwhile, in the desert to the west, three gunmen crossed the border between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Israel, attacked an Israeli crew building a border fence, and killed a worker, an Arab Israeli named Saeed Fashafshe. The human mind likes to make connections, so it's easy to draw a thick black line of cause-and-effect between these events: One could conclude that the revolution alone is at fault for the Egyptian regime losing control of the Sinai desert—or worse, that the ascendant Islamicists are encouraging the border violence. Those reflexive interpretations ran through Israeli media reports this week. The reality is more complicated. Nonetheless, the fact that the border and Egyptian politics are heating up at the same time demands attention. For Egypt's wrestling political forces, the lesson...

Structurally Flawed

A face-off over the legality of Israeli settlement has left Benjamin Netanyahu weaker.

(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Before July 1, five apartment buildings in a West Bank settlement will be cut from their foundations and dragged over the hilly terrain to a new location elsewhere in the community. That's Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan, anyway. From an engineering perspective, the idea is "delusional," as one expert put it. That's an understated evaluation. If the three-story buildings are moved and survive, it's reasonable to assume that they'll be riddled with visible and unseen fissures—just like Netanyahu's Likud party, his ruling coalition, and the jerrybuilt legal underpinnings of Israeli settlement in occupied territory. The interesting question is which of these flawed structures will collapse first. The idea of moving the buildings, home to 30 families, is part of Netanyahu's response to the worst political crisis he has faced in his current term. A month ago, the country's Supreme Court issued an absolutely final, don't-bother-us-again, we're-fed-up-with-you order to...

Unorthodoxies

Could Israel's new coalition get the ultra-Orthodox to go to work? Not by Netanyahu's methods.

(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
In our last episode , dear viewers, we watched as Israel's main opposition party, Kadima, sold out its centrist voters and joined Benjamin Netanyahu's government—thereby providing the prime minister a reprieve of over a year before he must face the voters. This allows Bibi more time to raise regressive taxes, evade negotiations with the Palestinians, and deride diplomatic efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear issue. But perhaps there's a bright spot in this dark plot line. To paraphrase a question I've heard repeatedly over the last couple of weeks: Since the new coalition is broad enough to maintain its majority in parliament even if clerical parties walk out, can it finally end one of the strangest and best-known aberrations of Israeli life? Can it end the bizarre pork-barreling that allows most ultra-Orthodox men to spend their life in religious studies rather than working? After all, isn't the Israeli economy slowly sinking as the ultra-Orthodox community grows and the financial...

Elections? Ooh, That's Scary

Talk about a quick campaign. The latest one in Israel lasted about a week, and there wasn't even an election at the end.

(AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)
Just last weekend, local political commentators were enthusing about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tactical brilliance in deciding on snap elections more than a year ahead of schedule. The opposition—particularly the centrist Kadima party—was unprepared. Polls purportedly proved that Netanyahu's Likud would be the only party holding more than a quarter the seats in the next parliament; all the rest would stand in line to join his coalition. An cabinet press release on Sunday named September 4 as election day. Two days later, the nation awoke to news that Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz had cut a deal with Netanyahu to bring his party into the current coalition. Elections can wait till late 2013, as originally scheduled. Political commentators enthused again, this time about Netanyahu's brilliance in co-opting one potential rival and frustrating others. Foreign analysts wondered whether Netanyahu's deal with Mofaz, a former general, would promote or hinder an Israeli strike against...

Netanyahu Wags Washington

The Israeli government stops pretending that it doesn't establish new settlements.

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
The decision broke with a policy that Israel has held for 20 years: no new settlements will be established. Right-wing Israeli governments, in particular, have broadcast that policy as part of their international PR efforts. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his most senior ministers granted official approval last week to three West Bank settlements. No big deal, say government spokesmen. "This is only a technical matter," Netanyahu's staffers told U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, the Daily Ma'ariv reported on Sunday. There's actually a measure of truth in that claim—but that dollop of truth is an indictment of 20 years of settlement policy. The settlements of Rehelim, Brukhin, and Sansanah already exist. They are just three of the settlements erected over the last two decades with the government's aid and abetment. The ministerial decision merely relabels a rogue operation as an official action. If hypocrisy is tribute that vice pays to virtue, this is the moment when vice stops...

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