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

Freezing Netanyahu

Despite the appearance of wild generosity, Obama and Clinton could have Netanyahu in a very tight spot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
"There must be more here than meets the eye," friends and colleagues have been saying about the deal that Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu reached for a new three-month freeze on West Bank settlement building. How could Clinton and her boss be willing to pay so much -- 20 new F-35s, a guaranteed American veto in the Security Council on recognizing unilateral Palestinian independence -- for so little? Surely Obama and Clinton must be up to something. Actually, I'm beginning to suspect that they are up to something. But before I explain, two provisos. The first is that there's a common psychological error among smart people: When they see other smart people doing what look like folly, they assume that a hidden, complex plan has got to be at work. Yet as historian Barbara Tuchman taught us, intelligent leaders do sometimes march, eyes wide- open, into folly, rendering moot all the complex rationalizations of how this dumb-looking act will lead to wonderful results. The second...

Crossing Borders

One little girl in need of medical care, two journalists, and a lucky set of social connections highlight just how difficult life has become in the West Bank.

The rural West Bank (Flickr/Josh Hough)
Dalal rested in her father's lap. She smiled but only said one word, ana, "I" in Arabic -- her entire vocabulary at the age of three and a half. My friend Dr. Eliezer Be'eri, carefully felt her feet and ran his hand over her back. "Can she hold things?" Be'eri asked. "She just started to with her right hand," answered her father, Osama Rusrus. "Does she pass things from hand to hand?" "No. The other hand doesn't function." The examination continued. A cool evening breeze blew across the patio of the Everest Hotel, a mountaintop pensione on the outskirts of Beit Jala in the West Bank. Beit Jala itself is in Area A, the part of the West Bank that is under full Palestinian Authority control and that is off-limits to Israelis by Israeli military order. Alyn Hospital , the Middle East's only pediatric rehabilitation hospital, where Be'eri is a department head, is in Jerusalem, which is off-limits to West Bank Palestinians unless they procure Israeli permits. Our lives are fragmented by...

The Coalition Against Israeli Democracy

A proposed amendment to Israel's citizenship law shows how far right Netanyahu's government really is.

Israeli Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog is normally a soporific politician. Dressed up in a suit, he looks and sounds more like a boy about to celebrate his bar mitzvah than like a Cabinet member. Asked for a sound bite on a controversial issue, he's likely to answer with a tangle of equivocation. Herzog owes his senior status in the Labor Party to legacy -- his father's career in Labor concluded with 10 years as Israel's figurehead president, his grandfather was Israel's first chief rabbi -- and to his proven willingness to support whoever's in charge in the party. A key example: Last year he backed party leader Ehud Barak's decision to join Benjamin Netanyahu's government, over the objections of Knesset colleagues who recalled that Labor once had principles. Herzog, therefore, is not a guy you'd expect to use the f-word when describing the country's direction under that same government. But he did last weekend. "Fascism," he said, "is licking at the edges of the camp, and we're not...

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...

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