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

An Open Letter to George Mitchell

As President Obama's Middle East envoy, Mitchell will need to challenge the belief that nothing can be done to achieve peace in the region.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Dear Mr. Mitchell, Welcome. Arriving here today as President Obama's Middle East envoy, you're likely to be greeted with tired indifference or polite hostility by leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So I'd like to let you know that I'm glad you're here. The president's choice of you as his diplomatic alter ego was a pleasant surprise: The agreement you brought in Northern Ireland, in a conflict that looked as bitter and irrational as our own, means that you come carrying evidence that it's possible to negotiate peace. Though you were part of the Clinton team, you aren't associated with the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000. The choice of a former Senate majority leader also shows that Mr. Obama wants someone with prestige and seniority -- and someone who can go to Capitol Hill to explain the need for aggressive, even impatient, peace-making. When AIPAC tries to line up votes for knee-jerk resolutions to undercut your work, this will matter. Most of all,...

The Ignored Choices in Gaza

Both Hamas and the Israeli government had options for avoiding this conflict. Now, in the heat of battle, those options have been eclipsed.

A Palestinian woman holds a child as she sits on the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in the Rafah refugee camp southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
The morning after the invasion began, I ran into a friend at a café. It was a quiet day in Jerusalem, cold and sunny. He'd received a text message, from his son, who was serving in an unnamable unit in the south. The message said that the soldiers' cell phones were being collected, so he wouldn't be able to call again for some time. Translated, it meant, "We're going in." My friend smiled, with a bit of effort, and then said about the war, "I don't think we had any choice this time." His colleague, a long-haired middle-aged man with left-leaning politics, agreed. "We had to do something" about missiles raining on Israeli cities, he said. The only available "something" began with airstrikes and had now moved on to invasion. In war, I thought after I left them, the mind focuses like a telephoto lens. It sees a small picture, without depth, in sharp detail. Any panoramic view is lost. The pictures are stills, without before and after. This is the way people think when a rocket launched...

The Rebel Prince

Benjamin Netanyahu is the front-runner in Israel's election. Will voters notice that a radical rightist has hijacked Netanyahu's Likud party?

I met Moshe Feiglin, today the rebel prince of Israel's Likud party, in September 1998, at the Jerusalem Convention Center. Fifteen hundred radical rightists were pouring into the big graceless lobby. They'd come for an annual convention dedicated to rebuilding the ancient Jewish Temple where the Dome of the Rock now stands. Pamphleteers from sundry splinter groups worked the crowd. I recognized Feiglin's face -- lean and hungry, with a close-trimmed beard -- from news stories. Before Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, Feiglin's Zo Artzeinu (This Is Our Land) movement had led stormy protests, including blocking major highways, in a bid to prevent Israel from ceding territory for peace. In the lobby, he was handing out bumper stickers demanding "Jewish Leadership for Israel." I asked, "We don't have Jewish leaders?" Feiglin sneered, as if everyone knew better. Right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu, then prime minister, obviously didn't fit Feiglin's requirements. The next spring, Feiglin's...

Palestinian Presidential Follies

Obama can't wait until the inauguration to respond to the Palestinian political crisis.

Despite all appearances, the United States only has one president at a time. Come Jan. 9, however, the enigmatic entity known as the Palestinian Authority could have two rival presidents -- one in the besieged non-state of Gaza, the other in the fragmented Israeli protectorate in the West Bank. Each will claim to be the sole legitimate leader of the Palestinians. The mutually destructive rift between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the Fatah-governed territory in the West Bank will deepen and be harder to bridge. If Barack Obama entertains the notion of pushing for Palestinian-Israeli peace -- as I hope he does -- he'll find that the challenge has become even more daunting. George W. Bush, the fading presence still in the White House, won't do anything to solve the latest Palestinian political crisis. To the extent that the United States has an influence, Obama will need to act -- shall we say, pre-presidentially. The reasons for the deepening Palestinian split can be found in poorly...

Death of the Comrade, and of the Party

Is the Labor Party of Israel on the verge of becoming history? With elections set for Feb. 10, polls show the party fading away.

Sini died. My son spotted the square black-bordered obituary notice deep inside the newspaper. It was placed by Sini's kibbutz. It referred to him as "Sini," his nickname -- "Chinaman" in loose translation, politically incorrect today but accepted when he got the name, somewhere so far back in the previous century that no one is around to remember when it happened. The nickname referred to his eyes, which had the Tartar look that occasionally occurs among Jews of Eastern European ancestry. The ad gave his real name, Arnan Azaryahu, in parenthesis. It said nothing of what he'd done in life. Those who need to know, know -- those who were high up in the movement, the underground, the party. The death notice mirrored how he lived, between understatement and secrecy. I was surprised by my own surprise at his death, and by how sad I was. When I interviewed Sini five years ago about the history of Israeli settlements, he was already 87. He spoke for four hours, with a deep voice and a clear...

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