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

Palestinian Upset

All together now: Oops! Oo-oops! After the Palestinian elections, the chorus singing that refrain includes not only the Bush administration, Israeli intelligence analysts, the old leadership of the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian pollsters who were reassuringly wrong all the way through the exit surveys. The people most perplexed by the victory of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, may be Hamas' own leaders. An electoral mandate for governing was the last thing they were ready for, and they quickly sought someone else to do the job, or at least share it. Which is just one of the contradictions in a political contest where the true victors, it seems, are irony and confusion. Until the elections, the Bush administration seemed to equate promoting democracy with fighting terror. The mistake was to assume linkage between two goals just because they were both positive -- to expect that giving people the chance to elect leaders would necessarily wean them from religious...

Ariel's Exit

“Do you know why you're the one who does all the operations? Because you never ask for written orders. Everyone else wants explicit clarifications. But … you just do it,” Moshe Dayan said to Ariel Sharon half a century ago, explaining why the two young officers got on so well. The comment also hints at why Sharon and George W. Bush got along famously as national leaders. At the time, Dayan was Israel's chief of staff and Sharon was head of the paratroops, assigned to carry out cross-border raids in retaliation for Arab attacks. Counting on the same kind of cooperation, Sharon would write, Dayan assigned him to break a Palestinian insurgency in Gaza in 1971. Sharon would do what was required, by his own methods -- call them daring or reckless -- and leave no paper trail leading to those who wanted the job done. Another implication is that Sharon had orders or agreement for all his actions. In fact, as officer and then politician, he earned a reputation for deception and for acting in...

The Israel Deal

Iraq, it's true, isn't precisely Vietnam: Vietnam is hellishly hot and humid, whereas Iraq is infernally hot and dry; Americans aren't dying as quickly in Iraq as they did in Nam; the justifications used to pull the United States into Iraq have proven false even more quickly than the arguments for fighting in Southeast Asia did. But the Vietnam comparison does help to undermine an oft-repeated canard about the Iraq entanglement: that it served Israeli interests. There's evidence disproving that myth, starting with the historical. We should learn from Vietnam that when the United States is neck deep in a quagmire, it is unable to fulfill commitments to Israel, to provide a strategic umbrella, or to work for Arab-Israeli peace. Without solid U.S. backing, Israel is more likely to rely on its military than on diplomacy, with costly results. In May 1967, as Vietnam raged, Egypt moved its troops into the Sinai Peninsula and closed the Straits of Tiran, sparking the crisis that led to the...

Road Nap

Here's the conventional wisdom, stated at a sadly conventional Israeli news event: "With respect to Israel, [George W.] Bush has been one of the best presidents we have ever had." The speaker was James Tisch, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The venue was Jerusalem's Keren Hayesod Street on the blustering morning of February 22, moments after a suicide bomb shredded a bus and its riders. When the bomb went off, Tisch and other establishment Jewish American leaders were inside a luxury hotel a few hundred yards away, in a briefing with Israel's military chief of staff. They headed out to see the grisly scene and were buttonholed by a reporter for commentary. And here's a more expert analysis of the American president's performance. "There is a major gap between the perception that Bush has been good for Israel and the reality of Israel's terrible circumstances," says Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and veteran of Middle...

The Terror Trap

The four men, veterans of a grim business, had only grim words. Former heads of the Shin Bet, the Israeli security service entrusted with fighting terrorism, they gathered to tell Israel's largest newspaper that the Sharon government was failing completely in its war on terrorism. The problem, said Ami Ayalon, who headed the elite, secretive agency in the late 1990s, is, "We have built a strategy of immediate prevention"—of stopping the next attack—while ignoring causes. His colleagues echoed that evaluation in a mid-November joint interview. "We must, once and for all, admit that there is an other side, that it has feelings and that it is suffering," said Avraham Shalom, who held the agency's top post in the early '80s. Insisting that Israel needs to end the occupation, the four seized attention at home and abroad. Yet for all the headlines, their message deserves a closer reading than it got, as it contains a lesson for the U.S. war on terrorism as well. In effect, they argued that...

Pages