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

It's the Occupation, Stupid

Why did the most recent coalition in the Israeli government only last ten weeks?

In France's Fourth Republic, it was said that tourists in Paris made sure to take in the daily changing of the government. According to myth, a deputy who dozed in the National Assembly might wake up to be told that he'd been premier twice during his nap. The coalitions that rule countries with multiparty systems can be flimsy things. But outside the realm of myth, Israel's most recent coalition was particularly short-lived: It ruled for ten weeks, just seventy days, before collapsing this week. By bringing Shaul Mofaz's centrist Kadima Party into his government in May, Netanyahu sought to avoid early elections. Among the big things that new friends Shaul and Bibi promised to do were ending the widely resented draft exemption for ultra-Orthodox men and jump-starting the peace process with the Palestinians. In other words, Netanyahu would show that he was really a moderate, and that he had been waiting for Kadima's support to rule as one. The explicit reason that Kadima left the...

Romneyland on the Mediterranean

What does having a Bain-style CEO do to a country? Israel has run the experiment, and the results are ugly.

(Flickr/TheeErin)
If Mitt Romney visits Israel this summer, it's a safe guess that his tour will avoid demonstrations against the government's economic policies. When Mitt and Bibi dine together, the Israeli prime minister probably won't show clips of riot cops dragging away Daphni Leef, the woman who ignited the economic protests, as she tries to re-establish a tent encampment in downtown Tel Aviv. Meeting the media, Romney may mention his old friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu, which dates back to the time when the two of them, fresh from business school, worked at the Boston Consulting Group. Journalists will dutifully ask him and Netanyahu about Iran, ignoring the fact that Israel has an economy and that running it is Netanyahu's passion. This is a shame, because Israel can be seen as a laboratory where tests have been conducted in managing a country as if Bain Capital had bought it — and the lab results aren't pretty. To be fair, the Israeli government has followed free-market orthodoxy since the...

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...

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