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

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...

Dear Mr. Obama ...

Please be clever at the U.N.

(AP Photo/Osama Faisal) Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during the opening of the Arab League Monitoring Committee to put the finishing touches on the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership in Doha, on Tuesday August 23, 2011.
Dear Mr. Obama, A clever person succeeds in climbing out of the hole that a wise one avoids falling into. So says a Hebrew adage often applied to national leaders. To my great sorrow, you have already missed the chance to respond wisely to the upcoming Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition. You still have a few days left to be clever. I desperately hope you use them. You strode into a foreign-policy hole during your Middle East speech last May when you dismissed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's plan to ask for U.N. membership an attempt "to isolate Israel at the United Nations." If anyone missed your implied threat, a State Department spokesperson made it explicit last week, explaining that if "something comes to a vote in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. will veto." This is a mistake several times over. Despite the habitually panicked tones from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian statehood is a gain for Israel. By promising a Security Council veto, you've tied...

Quiet, Fragile, and Unexpected

In a side effect of the Arab revolutions, Egypt pushed Israel and Hamas to stop before war.

(APAimages/Rex Features) Palestinian children's shadows on a wall with a mural depicting a Palestinian fight and an Israeli flag in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
Once again, war approached. The radio announced funerals of terror victims, including two sisters and their husbands. Politicians competed at bellicosity. Rumors drifted through quiet weekend conversations in Jerusalem synagogues that soldiers in combat units were packing their gear to go south, to Gaza. Again. The impulse to loose the brigades was poorly considered but not insane. Terror makes people of otherwise measured moods want to attack, to break things and people. The band of terrorists, allegedly from Gaza's Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), that came out of the Sinai desert last Thursday opened fire on cars and buses that were passing by chance on the highway to the beach town of Eilat. They killed six Israeli civilians and two soldiers and left dozens wounded. From there, the cycle built with its seemingly invincible inevitability: An Israeli jet fired a missile at precisely the building in the Gaza Strip where five leaders of the PRC were meeting and killed them. The...

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