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

Whose Religion Is This, Anyway?

Being an Orthodox dove in Israel is a complicated business.

(AP Photo)
The American Jewish filmmaker told me he was doing a documentary on possible answers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- one state or two -- and human-rights issues. When he showed up at my Jerusalem apartment on a recent afternoon to interview me, he was wearing a beret. His wife and producer wore a maxi skirt; a scarf covered her hair. Their attire showed they were Orthodox Jews. Hers, in particular, fit the stereotyped look of the Israeli religious right, of settlers and their supporters, including some Jews abroad. I was surprised. Maybe, I thought, I was the token leftist interviewee in a project by settlement backers aimed at showing that there is no exit from the conflict and that Israel must hold the West Bank forever. I was also painfully aware of an irony: My own skullcap identifies me, correctly, as an Orthodox Jew. Countless times, my appearance has also caused people to assume, incorrectly, that I belong to the religious right. One look has been enough for them to...

Jerusalem's Shepherd Hotel Affair

In Jerusalem, where all planning is strategic and all local issues are international, the sale of one property can serve as a political move intended to determine the city's future status.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks up during a session of the plenary in the Knesset, Israel's Parliament. (AP Photos/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
Western communists, it was said in another era, took out their umbrellas whenever it rained in Moscow. I remembered that adage as I read a recent statement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that arrived in my inbox. The subject was the latest U.S.-Israeli flap over construction in East Jerusalem. No matter that the diplomatic thunderstorm appears artificial -- deliberately engineered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deflect the Obama administration's pressure to freeze settlement activity. At the Presidents Conference headquarters in New York, the umbrellas were opened with alacrity. The statement is an uncritical repetition of Netanyahu government spin. The locus of the clash is a four-story building known as the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood north of Jerusalem's Old City. It's an affluent area where foreign consulates are scattered between mansions of aristocratic Palestinian clans such as the Husseinis and Nashashibis...

New Testimony From Gaza

A newly published account by an organization of Israeli soldiers suggests that policy set by top commanders led to unnecessary civilian deaths and massive physical damage.

An Israeli soldier stands on top of an armored vehicle, near the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Monday Jan. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
"We didn't see a single house that was not hit. The entire infrastructure, tracks, fields, roads -- was in total ruin," an anonymous soldier says, describing his days in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli incursion last winter. "Nothing much was left in our designated area … A totally destroyed city ... The few houses that were still inhabitable were taken by the army … there were lots of abandoned, miserable animals." The destruction continued daily, he testifies, though Palestinians -- fighters and civilians -- had fled the area. So much lay in ruins, says another Israeli soldier, that it was hard to navigate. "I entered Al Atatra [in the northern Gaza Strip] after seeing aerial photos and didn't identify anything … I remembered that 200 meters further on down the track there should be a junction, with two large houses at the corners, and there wasn't. I remembered there was supposed to be a square with a Hamas memorial … and there wasn't. There was rubble,...

Two States, Still One Exit

Is the two-state solution an obsolete strategy?

Let's face it: When Barack Obama said in Cairo that "the only resolution" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two separate states, he was courageously insisting -- well, on what's become conventional wisdom. But not the unanimous wisdom. The hardliners on each side aren't alone in questioning the two-state idea. On the street in Jerusalem, I've run into old friends, veterans of Israeli peace and human-rights activism who say we've passed the tipping point: There are too many settlements; Israeli withdrawal is impossible; negotiations on two states have repeatedly failed; the only solution is a single, shared Jewish-Palestinian state. I've heard Palestinian intellectuals, former supporters of a two-state solution, who say the same. Among writers outside the conflict zone, British Jewish historian Tony Judt may be best known for suggesting -- back in 2003 -- that as a nation-state, Israel is "an anachronism" and should be replaced by a binational state. Ironically, Obama himself may...


As I discuss in my column today, Obama 's foreign policy strategy has had a qualifiable effect on Middle East dynamics. But the aftermath of Iran's election is also sure to have a spillover effect elsewhere in the region. What effect, of course, depends on the final act of the drama in Iran. In the worst case, of a violent crackdown with hundreds or thousands of protesters killed, says Amatzia Baram , a historian of the Middle East at Haifa University, the Iranian regime would follow up by trying to present "an impeccable radical record … an Islamist record" to its public. That would mean more involvement in Iraq, more agitation among the Shi'ite minorities in the Gulf states, more support for Hezbollah and Hamas. On the other hand, Baram says, any compromise to end the protest would bring "a slow mellowing of the regime, power-sharing with liberals and so forth"-- but only in a slow process taking years. The relationship with Hezbollah, says Lebanese political scientist Amal Saad-...