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

Olmert's Ulster

Now that Israeli leader Ehud Olmert has nailed together a ruling coalition and can start work on his signature policy plan, a pullout from much of the West Bank, he has this much in his favor: What's left of country's hard right can't claim he has no mandate for withdrawal. Consider that cause for one and a half cheers. For as currently designed, Olmert's plan seems designed to leave Israel with its own version of an endless Ulster problem. Lack of a popular mandate was one of the right's central arguments against Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last summer. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon had been elected as a supporter of the “Whole Land of Israel” -- meaning permanent Israeli control of the occupied territories. Rightists, including members of Sharon's own Likud party, unsuccessfully demanded a referendum before evacuating Israeli settlers from the Strip. In the aftermath of the Gaza pullout, Sharon bolted the Likud to create the new Kadimah ticket. And Olmert, who...

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...

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