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

Netanyahu Isn't in Charge Here

The lesson from the latest crisis in Israeli-Palestinian talks is that Obama should be negotiating with the Israeli public.

Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak arrives at the Pentagon, Monday, Sept. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The confession of weakness was startling. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was explaining to the BBC why Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should continue despite Israel's refusal to extend its freeze on new building in West Bank settlements. People had to understand, he said, "Israel doesn't have a way to stop this building totally." Barak is the civilian official directly responsible for the Middle East's strongest military. He's also responsible for governing the West Bank, since it's under military occupation. Nonetheless, he says he just can't stop settlers from revving up the cement mixers. Since settlement constructions are intended not merely to provide homes but also to set Israel's borders and reduce its diplomatic options, Barak is also admitting that the government has ceded its monopoly on foreign policy. Only a bit more subtly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed his own weakness on Sunday. It was the last day of the 10-month building moratorium, which Netanyahu...

The Occupation Comes Home

Ruling the West Bank continues to corrode Israeli society.

Israeli police officers treat a man after a Qassam rocket, fired from the Gaza Strip, landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Thursday, June 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Dave Buimovitch)
A recent news item in a niche publication about a new recruitment program for Israel's national police force obliquely provided some of the most telling testimony I've seen recently about the importance of the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It said nothing about the talks, yet read properly, it was a reminder that reaching a two-state solution is essential not only as a means of achieving peace -- critical as that is in itself -- but also of protecting Israel's own society from the rot caused by occupation. I spotted the article in Olam Katan ("Small World"), a free weekly given out in Israeli synagogues on the Sabbath. The target audience is religious Zionists -- Orthodox Jews who generally favor integration into the wider Israeli society but who often nurture a strong minority identity, a tribal sense of "us" and everyone else. The community is hardly monolithic. But ever since the Six-Day War of 1967, most religious Zionists have leaned rightward. They've been the...

Attacks in Hebron.

At dusk today, terrorists shot and killed four Israelis on the main West Bank highway south of Hebron. News reports identified the victims as residents of the nearby Israeli settlements of Beit Hagai and Kiryat Arba. Hamas -- the ultra-nationalist Islamicist group locked in conflict with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority -- quickly took responsibility for the attack. The Hebron area is known as a Hamas stronghold, and Hamas bitterly opposes the direct peace talks between Israel and the PA that are scheduled to resume in Washington on Thursday. The logic behind the murders is obvious: As has happened many times before, extremists want to stop diplomacy by igniting a new cycle of attack, crackdowns, rage, and more terror. In this case, the killers seek to discredit the Palestinian Authority and its efforts to prevent violence. Most Israelis and Palestinians already appear pessimistic about the talks, but hard-liners are desperately afraid that the negotiations might just bring...

Is This the Road to Israeli-Palestinian Peace?

Middle East peace talks resume in Washington on Thursday, but conditions on the ground belie optimism.

Palestinian cars with waving Palestinian flags approach an Israeli army roadblock near Ramallah, on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Update : At nightfall, Israel time, Hamas terrorists killed four Israelis on a highway near Hebron in the West Bank. The attack was clearly aimed at discrediting the Palestinian Authority's efforts to stop terror, and at thwarting the resumption of peace talks. Read more here . "Watch out for the yahud ," for the Jews, said the young Palestinian man outside Ramallah whom we asked for directions. My colleague asked what he meant; we certainly weren't going to run into crowds of Israeli Jews, civilians, or soldiers if we took the wrong turn in Ramallah. Besides, our accents made it obvious that we were Jews ourselves. Yahud , said the man working on the truck, was now the slang for the Palestinian police -- the ubiquitous forces that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have deployed to impose order in Palestinian cities and prevent terror attacks against Israelis. Israeli regulations from the beginning of the Second Intifada bar Israelis from the main...

Fresh Battles Over Overseas Donations in Israel

When the right's reaction is craziest, it may be evidence that something significant has happened.

Rabbi Michael Melchior. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
During a decade in Israel's Parliament, Michael Melchior made his name as an effective legislator. The rabbi and social democrat chaired the Knesset Education Committee, pushing the government to provide hot lunches for poor schoolchildren and to mainstream special-needs pupils. As an environmentalist, he was willing to partner with Omri Sharon -- son of the rightist former prime minister -- and Dov Khenin of the Communist Party. Melchior flunked flamboyance, though. He was nearly invisible to the general public. He owed his seat to an alliance between the Labor Party and his dovish religious party, Meimad. In the 2009 election the alliance was dissolved, and Melchior's party failed to get the 2 percent of the national vote needed to win seats in the Knesset. This month, though, Melchior is in the news. That's partly due to his own efforts. A group he founded, the Civil Action Forum , is pressing the government to take royalties from a new natural-gas field off Israel's coast and to...

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