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

Who Will Stop the Bulldozers?

The Bush administration is supposedly committed to a freeze on Israeli settlement, as part of the bid to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement this year. So what are all those hardhats doing at building sites?

A new housing development in the east Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
They are building at Har Homa. The round hill, once forested, is now a hive of muddy streets, of men in hardhats shouting over the pneumatic thumping hammers and grinding cement mixers and the big shovels growling on tank treads. Tall spindly yellow cranes rise above the dense throng of apartment towers in every stage of construction—from empty-eyed concrete shells, to stone-faced buildings with windows and mailboxes and elevators waiting for moving crews, to the buildings, higher on the hill, where real residents have already put flowerboxes on balconies. Developers' signs decorate the streets like picket signs above a demonstration. Long bundles of steel rods for reinforcing concrete lie on muddy lots. Below the lowest ring road around the hill, in the wadi, olive trees still grow on ancient terraces lushly green from winter rain, but the terraces' day will come, because all of the frenzy and concrete visible today constitute only the first third of the planned Israeli neighborhood...

The Next Middle East Policy

President Bush's Middle East policy has been a return to the Cold War misconception that ignores local rivalries. His successor, Democrat or Republican, has to do better.

Ever since it turned out that Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction were the equivalent of a toy pistol in a bank robber's hand, people have wondered why he maintained the illusion. The suggestion I've heard in café conversations in Jerusalem always made most sense to me: Saddam was much more scared of Iran than of the United States, and wanted at least the silhouette of a deterrent. This was a bad gamble, but then so was invading Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. To the extent that the Bush administration convinced itself, and not just the public, that the toy was real, it failed to consider what the Middle East looked like from the inside. It regarded Iran and Iraq as co-members of an anti-American "axis of evil." But Saddam had more enemies than just America. And rulers of Mesopotamia have been afraid of Persia for much longer than the United States has been part of the picture. So I got a certain satisfaction when Ilan Goldenberg of the National Security Network...

What Does It Mean To Be the Pro-Israel Candidate?

The major candidates in both parties seek the "pro-Israel" label. Now is the time to debate what it means to support Israel, so that a year from now, elected leaders will be able to refer to publicly recognized ideas to justify acting more sensibly.

iStock photo
For the record, Rudy Giuliani gives me the very deep creeps, relieved only by his current poor electoral prospects. I mention this because some people think he is the most pro-Israel of candidates. If so, may God protect Israel from its friends. Giuliani, with Norman (World War IV) Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes among his foreign policy advisers , is only important as the most extreme example. Every presidential candidate who might get more than 3 percent of the vote in a primary anywhere seeks the "pro-Israel label," peculiarly defined by policies incongruent with Israeli political realities. Barack Obama gave a speech to AIPAC last year implying that he supported the way Israel prosecuted its 2006 war in Lebanon. (An Israeli inquiry report on decision-making in that war, due out soon, could end Prime Minister Olmert's career.) As I've noted previously, Hillary Clinton supports "an undivided Jerusalem" as Israel's capital. (Olmert insists on negotiating Jerusalem's future, even though it...

The Fence Failure

If George W. Bush added a tour of Israel's "security barrier" to his visit, he might understand how essential a political solution to terror is, rather than a military one.

When George W. Bush visits Israel next week, he's reportedly planning to take time off for a visit to the ruins of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have lived and preached. I shouldn't begrudge someone shlepping across the world a couple hours for a private pilgrimage. But if Bush wants to pry time free from meetings in Jerusalem, it would be better spent on a tour of the Israeli separation barrier, a.k.a. fence, a.k.a. wall. Plenty of human rights activists who speak good English (maybe too good for W.) would be happy to guide him. The trip could give him a visceral feeling for why he should finally devote himself seriously to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, instead of just dabbling. Realistically, the president is no more likely to head out to the fence than a visiting CEO looking over a company is likely to talk to the shop-floor workers who know how the place really runs. So let me describe a bit of what he'll miss, and what it means. A good stop would be...

Ehud the Semi-Believer

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is trapped by his unwillingness to acknowledge that Israel must leave the occupied territories completely.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007, at the Government House in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Ehud Olmert has begun to fascinate me. Don't misunderstand: I am completely innocent of ever voting for him. I have no intent of committing such an act in the future. Had fate not put me in a country of which Olmert is prime minister at a moment that might be seized by someone else, an actual leader , to make peace, my interest in him would be purely as a literary figure, a character. I don’t mean that he is a tragic hero; precisely the point is that he lacks grandeur. He is Willy Loman with a vision: a glad-handing hack politician who was ambushed one day by a truth. Half of that truth scares him so much that every time it calls, he tells his secretary to tell it that he's in a meeting. At the Annapolis peace conference last week, Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas agreed to "make every effort to conclude an agreement" resolving all issues and resulting in full peace "before the end of 2008." Their joint statement was read out loud by George W. Bush, making a very rare...

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