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

Why Are They So Angry?

An Israeli dove in Jewish America

"He's lying! He's lying!" the man at the back of the hall shouted, in a tone as desperate as it was angry. "He hasn't read the Geneva Conventions. You haven't read them, so you don't know he's lying." The primary object of his rage was me. The secondary object, it seemed, was his fellow congregants, who'd allowed me to lecture at his New York-area synagogue. I'd spoken about threats to Israel's democracy, including those posed by ongoing expansion of West Bank settlements. This was the first time, I'd been told, that the congregation had hosted a speaker on Israel from outside a spectrum running from right-wing to very right-wing. During the question-and-answer period, I was asked about my statement that the legal counsel of Israel's Foreign Ministry had warned before the first West Bank settlement was established that it would violate the agreement of the Fourth Geneva Convention. That's when the man in the back came unstuck. The congregation's rabbi, who was moderating the Q&A...

Condi the Zombie Killer

The former secretary of state puts to rest the idea that Palestinians aren't interested in a peace deal.

(Flickr/Darth Downey)
S he killed the lie, I thought, as I read Condoleezza Rice's semi-revelations about the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that was really almost reached three years ago. The lie says that Israel's then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, offered everything the Palestinians could possibly expect, and Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas said no because he isn't interested in peace. Rice was secretary of state at the time and seems to have believed in peacemaking, despite serving under George W. Bush. In her new memoir, she confirms an account of why peace slipped away that fits evidence and logic much better than the lie does. Then I thought again: The lie won't go away. It provides current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his domestic legitimacy and his overseas defense of his policies—a defense that works poorly outside of the United States, but working there is enough to protect him from any sudden impulse by Barack Obama to renew the peace process. The lie is presented softly by Netanyahu's good-...

A Jew of No Religion

Yoram Kaniuk has won: The prominent Israeli novelist is now very officially a Jew of no religion. Hundreds of other Israelis, inspired by his legal victory, want to follow his example and change their religious status to "none" in the country's Population Registry, while remaining Jews by nationality in the same government database. A new verb has entered Hebrew, lehitkaniuk , to Kaniuk oneself, to legally register an internal divorce of Jewish ethnicity from Jewish religion. Kaniuk is 81 years old, one of the surviving writers of Israel's founding generation. His latest and most lauded book is a memoir about fighting in the country's 1948 war of independence. He's also a veteran and sharp-penned critic of Jewish religion, which he has at times represented as an amalgam of the national religious extremism of the settlements, ultra-Orthodox fundamentalism, and the state's clerical bureaucracy. During the escalation of the secular-religious kulturkampf that followed the...

On the Dangerous Slopes of Jerusalem

Construction in East Jerusalem is destroying relations between Israel and its closest allies.

The neighborhood covers the hilltops. Beyond the last row of apartment buildings, the slope descends steeply, carpeted in loose rocks, olive trees, and brutally thorny shrubs. A long bridge, part of the highway linking Jerusalem to West Bank settlements to the south, sweeps across the valley below. On the other side, the hills rise again toward the Palestinian town of Beit Jala. I'm standing at the edge of Gilo, one of the largest neighborhoods that Israel has built on West Bank land that it annexed to expand Jerusalem in 1967. Last week, the Jerusalem District Planning Commission approved covering the slopes below in housing developments. I imagine what honest billboards advertising the new homes would say: "Gilo Slopes: Condos and Townhouses, Three Bedrooms and Up. Clear Mountain Air. Spectacular View of Arena of International Conflict." Technically, some red tape remains before bulldozers begin carving lots in the hillside. Practically, the planning board's OK opens the way to...

A Place Against the Nations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's U.N. speech tomorrow will show that if you're sure everyone dislikes you, they might prove you right.

(Niall Carson/PA Wire URN:11606814)
Benjamin Netanyahu plans to address the United Nations tomorrow, the same day Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to ask for U.N. membership for Palestine. The Israeli prime minister's trip to New York is a curious matter. He knows that the Palestinian request will fail in the Security Council. Netanyahu also knows his own speech will not keep a General Assembly majority from recognizing the independent state of Palestine. Netanyahu regards the United Nations as intrinsically hostile territory. He may even know that his speech could produce a few more votes for Palestine. So why is he bothering? Why didn't he stay home and leave the thankless job of getting up at the General Assembly podium to Israel's U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor? The answer is partly a matter of personal biography and domestic political tactics. It's much more a matter of political psychology and points to a key reason Israel's isolation in the Middle East has become so much more dire since Netanyahu came to power. Netanyahu...

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