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

Refusing a Single Narrative

There are multiple accounts of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Making peace is not a matter of choosing one side's story over the other's.

Spring is national trauma season in the land between the River and the Sea. The wildflowers that blossom briefly after the Mediterranean winter wilt, and Jews and Palestinians relive their agonizing memories, symbiotically, backs turned to each other. Their memories negate each other. Nonetheless, they are tellings of the same story. Because there is now an American administration interested in diplomacy, because the public debate in America about Israel and Palestine may be opening up, this small truth bears mention: Deciding that one side's telling is valid, and the other's is false, is not an act of peacemaking. The trauma itself is a strategic fact, as important as topography, borders, and water. April and May is the the time of year to pay attention, because this is when Israeli and Palestinian holidays are celebrated as national passion plays. The holidays don't just commemorate the historical events that formed each nation. They teach that the sacrifices of the past are...

Netanyahu Returns

Benjamin Netanyahu is in power once again, but is he in control? After just a week back in office, Israel's prime minister is already revealing his weaknesses.

A member of the Likud party, Netanyahu served as Israel's prime minister from 1996 to 1999. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
Since my wife began writing screenplays, I get a lesson in the mechanics of a film each time we watch one together. First lesson: Pay rapt attention to the opening moments. Character is being revealed; the entire plot is being laid out, though we may not yet understand how. Take the monologue at the start of Michael Clayton , where in a manic voiceover, a lawyer insists he's not insane but rather, that his firm's work has left him covered in excrement from which he cannot cleanse himself. Yes, we will learn, this madman is the sole compass of sanity in a world where the law is utterly befouled. It's all there, the whole story. I suggest watching the opening scenes of Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power -- call it Bibi II -- in the same way. It's not just that the Netanyahu Cabinet, which met for the first time this Sunday, is the largest in Israel's history or that key positions are held by politicians manifestly unqualified to deal with the crises that Israel faces. What's revealing...

The Testimony from Gaza

Israeli soldiers' accounts of the fighting last winter further undermine the official rationale of the war.

The soldier had served as a squad commander during the Israeli army's invasion of the Gaza Strip last winter. His unit was assigned to advance into Gaza City. His initial orders, he recalled, were that after an armored vehicle broke down the door of a building, his men were to enter, spraying fire: "I call it murdering ... going up one floor after another, and anyone we spot, shoot him." The word from his higher-ups was that anyone who hadn't fled the neighborhood could be assumed to be a terrorist. The orders fit a pattern: In Gaza, "as you know, they used lots and lots of force and killed lots and lots of people on the way so that we wouldn't be hurt," he said. Before the operation began, he recounted, the orders were softened. The building's occupants would be given five minutes to leave and be searched on their way out. When he told his squad, some soldiers objected. "Anyone there is a terrorist; that's a fact," one said. The squad commander was upset. "It's pretty frustrating...

His Uniform, My Responsibility

My son's induction into the Israeli army makes politics even more personal than before.

A friend has volunteered to drive. He'll drop us off in a suburb outside Tel Aviv, near the entrance of the Israel Defense Forces induction center. My son and I will talk, with our eyes on our watches, and I'll hug him, and he will swing his duffel bag over his shoulder and walk in. I'm writing beforehand. You are reading this after the event. For my son, as he has described his feelings, that gate marks the precise physical location of the end of childhood. For me, it marks the end of the countdown that began with his birth. It is the line between one type of anxiety and another, shaded in a deeper gray. Let me add quickly: I'm not writing about physical danger. After enduring all the army tests that Israelis his age undergo instead of filling out college applications, he has received an assignment that isn't likely to include being shot at. But it's militarily important and imposes that small, weighty fragment of responsibility -- like a speck of an ultra-heavy radioactive element...

Netanyahu, Cornered

Benjamin Netanyahu is politically trapped. Israel's new leader is tasked with balancing the interests of his right-wing coalition, appeasing his rivals, and maintaining a healthy relationship with America.

Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud Party, was named prime minister-designate last week. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Related: Read Gershom Gorenberg's dispatch on the outcome of Israel's election. The map of Knesset seating arrangements published by the daily Haaretz on Tuesday showed Benjamin Netanyahu in a corner -- in the front row, on the very right edge. The drawing was merely a mock-up; members of Israel's parliament were sworn in for the new term later that day and had not yet been assigned seats. Yet it expressed what has become Netanyahu's nightmare: being stuck, for all the world to see, in the far-right corner of Israeli politics. Netanyahu, it would seem, should be feeling confident and victorious. Last week, President Shimon Peres officially named him to form the next Israeli government. The murkiness of the Feb. 10 election results had been dispelled. He got the nod after all six parties of the Israeli right, which together have 65 seats in the 120-member Knesset, told Peres they preferred Netanyahu as prime minister. Bibi Netanyahu is a nervous man, known for sweating heavily. What's...

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