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

Hiding in Plain Sight

The Israeli public is shielded from the realities of West Bank life.

(Flickr/Chris Yunker)
The settlement's security man did not like us. He did not like the cameraman with his bulky gear, or the two documentary film producers who'd brought Dror Etkes and me to the outpost of Derekh Ha'avot south of Bethlehem, and he certainly didn't like Etkes, an Israeli activist known for expertise on land ownership and for his legal challenges to West Bank settlement. The security coordinator wore civvies but bounced a bit on the balls of his feet in the spring-coiled posture of junior combat officers, or recently discharged officers. "You can't film in the neighborhood," he told us. Neighborhood is a euphemism for an outpost, a mini-setttlement ostensibly established in defiance of the Israeli government but actually enjoying state support. Derekh Ha'avot -- the name means "Forefathers' Road" -- is next to the veteran settlement of Elazar but outside its municipal boundaries. The security man worked for Elazar. Filming would be "a security risk. I don't know a lot about security, but I...

Political Memory in the Mideast

Obama's Middle East speech comes at a time when both sides are sure the other is misreading history.

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas regime in Gaza, may be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's favorite Palestinian leader -- a true ally, a blood brother. What they share is an all-or-nothing approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: either complete Palestinian rule over the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan or complete Jewish hegemony. Neither man is a totally immovable object -- roped and dragged by an irresistible political force, either might agree to less than the whole land, but only in violation of his life's central conviction. Haniyeh reiterated his views on Sunday at a Gaza rally, expressing "great hope of bringing an end to the Zionist project in Palestine." Netanyahu seized that comment as a gift from an ally and quoted it the next day in his own speech to the Knesset, using it as proof that "this is not a conflict over 1967; this is a conflict over 1948, over the very existence of the state of Israel." Let me add several bits of context:...

The Strange Alchemy of the Settlements

Daniella Weiss has a soft smile and a round face that is remarkably unwrinkled for a woman of 66 known for most of her adult life as an incendiary activist. A cloth cap covers her hair, in keeping with a strict reading of Orthodox Jewish rules for married women. In her living room in the West Bank settlement of Kedumim, west of Nablus, religious texts fill the bookshelves. Glass cases display a silver crown for a Torah scroll, filigreed spice boxes, and other Jewish ritual objets d'art . Weiss dates her career on Israeli's religious right to the mid-1970s, when she helped organize the efforts of Gush Emunim -- the Believers Bloc -- to settle in this part of the West Bank in defiance of Yitzhak Rabin's government. Until 2007, she was mayor of Kedumim. Since then, she has been organizing youth of the radical right to establish illegal settlement outposts. She introduces herself as a devoted disciple of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, founder of the Jewish settlement inside Hebron. I visited her...

Boehner and Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel halfway across the world to address Congress, but he won't come very far.

House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
When I heard that John Boehner was inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month, a faded, sharply contrasting memory of another solemn speech, another leader before a foreign assembly, flashed through my mind. I recalled watching the live broadcast of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's speech to the Knesset in 1977, an event that set the standard of courage by which all Middle East peace efforts have been measured ever since. Repeatedly, Sadat stressed that he had decided to go to the "farthest point on Earth," to Jerusalem, to make peace. That's a strange comment, I thought at the time. Jerusalem isn't so far from Cairo. But Sadat's description was correct: Emotionally, he had journeyed to a very distant place, at the formal invitation of an enemy, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, to end years of bloodshed. Bibi Netanyahu is the un-Sadat. He will fly much farther to get to Washington but will cross no emotional barriers. At the invitation of a sycophant, he'll speak...

A Possible Path to Peace

The Israeli Peace Initiative isn't perfect, but it's a true start.

In a better world, the Israeli Peace Initiative, launched yesterday, would have been written not by a group of ex-generals and other public figures but by the Israeli government itself. In an even better world, Israel would have issued the proposal nine years ago, immediately after the Arab League ratified its own Arab Peace Initiative. If that better world had included a U.S. administration able to mediate muscularly in 2002, the narrow gaps between the two outlines for peace might have been quickly closed and an agreement signed. Back then, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza -- not counting East Jerusalem -- was 216,000, compared with more than 300,000 today. The Palestinian Authority had not yet split into separate West Bank and Gaza governments. The barriers to implementing an accord were considerably lower. Many graves had yet to be dug for the Israelis and Palestinians who have since died at each others' hands. Alas, we do not live in that alternative...