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

Death of the Comrade, and of the Party

Is the Labor Party of Israel on the verge of becoming history? With elections set for Feb. 10, polls show the party fading away.

Sini died. My son spotted the square black-bordered obituary notice deep inside the newspaper. It was placed by Sini's kibbutz. It referred to him as "Sini," his nickname -- "Chinaman" in loose translation, politically incorrect today but accepted when he got the name, somewhere so far back in the previous century that no one is around to remember when it happened. The nickname referred to his eyes, which had the Tartar look that occasionally occurs among Jews of Eastern European ancestry. The ad gave his real name, Arnan Azaryahu, in parenthesis. It said nothing of what he'd done in life. Those who need to know, know -- those who were high up in the movement, the underground, the party. The death notice mirrored how he lived, between understatement and secrecy. I was surprised by my own surprise at his death, and by how sad I was. When I interviewed Sini five years ago about the history of Israeli settlements, he was already 87. He spoke for four hours, with a deep voice and a clear...

The House of Dispute

A house in Hebron has become the site of the latest battle over settlements in the West Bank. In a ruling last week, Israel's Supreme Court gave residents three days to clear out voluntarily, or face eviction.

The House of Dispute is a long, rectangular, four-story building on the east edge of Hebron. The street-level rooms are built as storefronts, facing the road leading to the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba. Upstairs are living quarters. As I write, the people living in those quarters are settlers who moved in one night in March of last year. How much longer they will live there is known only to a few top-level Israeli officials -- assuming that those officials have overcome their own trepidations and decided when and how to evict the settlers. In a ruling last week, Israel's Supreme Court gave the building's residents three days to clear out voluntarily, or face eviction by the government. The settlers and their hard-line supporters -- in the fortified Jewish enclaves in Hebron, in Kiryat Arba, and beyond -- say they won't let it happen. "We shall defend [ourselves] against this injustice with our bodies," Noam Arnon, spokesman of the Hebron settler community, has declared. At a...

The Case for Putting a Mideast Peace Agreement First

Barack Obama should address the need for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement sooner rather than later.

Time's up. Despite the bluster at George W. Bush's Potemkin peace conference in Annapolis one year ago, Israel and the Palestinians will not reach a peace agreement by the end of 2008. Please folks, don't all faint at once from surprise. Barack Obama will inherit this mess, along with all the others. Very soon, he must decide how quickly to throw his weight behind Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, what to aim for, and how to succeed where so many others have failed. The answer: Move fast, very fast. Ignore all advice from old diplomatic hands who'll tell you to avoid big, difficult issues and to stick to crisis management and interim accords. Seek a full end-of-conflict agreement. And apply lessons from your electoral campaign: Enforce absolute message discipline in your own team, and employ dramatic public events and rhetoric to restore people's belief that change is possible. The temptation for delay is obvious. The list of crises facing Obama starts with the economic collapse, Iraq...

An Israeli Looks at Obama

I was getting so many questions from friends and neighbors about how Obama stacked up on foreign policy, particularly as it concerned Israel, that it seemed time to sit down and review the facts.

A neighbor in Jerusalem asked me to write to his American father-in-law, who has been showering him with emails attacking Barack Obama. At a local bakery, the owner suggested in a whisper that I might talk sense to the tourist proclaiming in a New York accent, between sips of strong Israeli latte, that she was voting for John McCain. Old friends in California worry to me that elderly Jews in Miami think that McCain is better for Israel. "Remember 2000," they tell me darkly. Every vote counts. I suspect that something even more emotionally powerful than electoral math is at stake. My friends are frightened of the shame of a mother or uncle staining the family, or the tribe, with the wrong vote -- a vote purportedly cast out of concern for Israel. From where I sit, this would be a shame, because the reasons Obama is better for Israel's security are the same reasons he is better for American security. Start with McCain's claim to greater foreign-policy experience. Despite that experience...

A City United Against Itself

The Jerusalem mayoral race speaks to the sharp divisions within the city, and the lead candidate's culture-war appeal is a reminder of how ugly politics can get.

Nir Barkat wants to be mayor of Jerusalem. It would be an impressive job title. On a world scale, Jerusalem is a small city, with fewer people than Austin or Indianapolis. But it is the capital of Israel -- and of three religions' myths. Teddy Kollek, who served as mayor for 28 years, was better known internationally than many heads of state. His successor, Ehud Olmert, went on to become Israel's prime minister. Barkat, however, is a singularly unimpressive candidate for the job. For his supporters in the Nov. 11 election, the former high-tech entrepreneur's appeal is purely in his identity as a secular Jew. For them, he represents an opportunity to end the ultra-Orthodox political hegemony of recent years in the Holy City. But the culture war is a distraction. The nicest appellation for Barkat that I've heard among political activists is "shallow." His views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are hard-line right-wing. In fact, Barkat is the embodiment of the real cause of Jerusalem'...