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

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...

Till Settlement Freezes Over

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to offer a halt in construction at West Bank settlements before the Annapolis conference. But will Condi hold him to his promise?

The American consulate in Jerusalem once again has a full-time official reporting on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. For the last few years, that task was just a part-time task for a consulate staffer. For those who enjoy poring over diplomatic hints, this one sounds positive: It means more information flowing to the State Department and could even reflect renewed concern in Condoleezza Rice's fiefdom over the forces that block Israeli-Palestinian peace. Then again, a consulate spokeswoman confirms the settlement man is a junior diplomat on his first overseas assignment. He'll have it for just one year before handing it over to another fresh young foreign service officer. If the official's rank suggests the priority given to his e-mails, they won't be the first thing Condi reads in the morning. Still, there's another, more public sign that settlement is back on the American agenda: The Ha'aretz daily reported last week that under U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert...

Missing the Conversation About the Israel Lobby

Mearsheimer and Walt's The Israel Lobby lacks scholarly thoroughness -- and misses the debate among Jews over Israel.

After giving a lecture in San Francisco, I drove to a friend's house where I'd arranged to pick up a copy of The Israel Lobby during my swing through the States. Curiously, it took just a few pages of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's book to induce the disjointed feeling I usually get from reading an all-out defense of Israeli policy from precisely the right-wing Jewish groups they find so pernicious: I recognize dates, main events, sources of information, yet they are put together to create a world wildly simpler than the one in which I live -- an alternate reality neat and devoid of complexity, as if late at night I'd accidentally entered a subdevelopment's model home instead of my family's house down the street. The floor plan is the same, but the mess of being lived in is missing. Admittedly, I asked for dissonance by starting with the chapter that portrays the Israel lobby's power to crush all dissent within the U.S. Jewish community. If the description were accurate, the...

Peace and Archaeology in the Middle East

Disputes and compromises over preservation in the Holy Land have a lot to teach those trying to broker peace in the region. Perhaps Condoleezza Rice should consider those lessons in shaping U.S. policy.

The sign caught my eye: It held far more than the intended meaning. It hung on a corrugated metal fence in the antiquities park that faces the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, and it said: Archaeological Excavation Danger of Avalanche Do Not Enter You can read that as a simple description of physical peril. Last winter, when I visited the same spot, Israel Antiquities Authority laborers were carefully removing buckets of dirt from a pit just behind where the fence now stands. Others were digging into a nearby slope, with sandbags steadying the damp hillside. Soon after, the excavation was halted. A careless tourist wandering in here might bring everything tumbling down, despite work done afterward to stabilize the site. But the sign also told a much larger story. Archaeology in the Holy Land is laden with ideology and danger. Sticking a shovel in the ground near the Temple Mount, a.k.a. Haram al-Sharif, always threatens to trigger political avalanches. The real risk of collapse...