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

Settling for Radicalism

Israel has looked the other way as its military and government have gradually become more radical, and it may be too late to go back.

The small compound on the green hillside has several identities. It is the Elisha pre-military academy, a government-funded training ground for the next generation of highly motivated Israeli soldiers and officers. It is an illegal settlement outpost, established by right-wing activists to prevent an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. And it is also a religious institute, headed by a charismatic rabbi who teaches his students an ultra-nationalist form of Judaism that believes Israel has a divine imperative to rule these hills. To reach Elisha, I drove up the two-lane blacktop road that winds into the West Bank mountains east of Tel Aviv. The compound is just past the Palestinian village of Deir Nidham and the Israeli settlement of Neveh Tzuf. According to the academy's dean, Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, the spot was suggested by two veteran settlement leaders, Ze'ev Hever and Pinhas Wallerstein. The choice fit the wider pattern that they and others have followed in putting up illegal...

Can Obama Influence Netanyahu?

As recent domestic battles show, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caves easily to political pressure. But does he feel pressure to resolve the Palestinian crisis?

Hebrew is a compressed language. Much disdain can be packed in a few syllables. To say of the prime minister, "He's someone who cracks under pressure," takes just two words: hu lahitz . When a television mic caught the Israeli Finance Ministry's budget chief using those words last week, the budget chief denied he was talking about Benjamin Netanyahu. The denial was hard to take seriously. For one thing, the official resigned the next day in disgust over Netanyahu's handling of a national budget crisis. For another, the description precisely fit the prime minister's behavior. In the lead-up to Netanyahu's meeting today with Barack Obama, I'm sure the president's staffers have studied the Israeli leader's positions on the Palestinians and on Syria and Iran. Let's hope they also carefully watched how Netanyahu dealt with the first major domestic challenge of his new term in office. It was a characteristic Netanyahu failure of negotiating skills, leaving him deeply politically unpopular...

Jerusalem's Obstructionist Construction

The pattern of Israeli construction in East Jerusalem is meant to erase the Clinton parameters for peace.

Construction workers build a new apartment complex for Israelis in east Jerusalem's Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighborhood. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
So far, the bulldozers have carved a large hole in the chalky hillside for foundations. On the street, a developer's sign shows a picture of three multifloor apartment buildings that will rise on the site. The name of the developer, Bemuna, is written in Hebrew and means "in faith." The company's Web site says the project is located in East Talpiot -- one of the Jewish neighborhoods that Israel built after it annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. That's a stretch, as I found when I visited the building site this week. The hole in the ground is surrounded by the houses of Arab a-Sawahra, a Palestinian neighborhood that borders East Talpiot. Once completed, the buildings will be three emphatic statements of Jewish presence in the neighborhood, three declarations that a political border can't be easily drawn between Arab and Jewish areas of the city. Bemuna's project is not an isolated case. The first stage of the Nof Zion ( Zion View) development looks ready for buyers to move in. In one of...

Refusing a Single Narrative

There are multiple accounts of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Making peace is not a matter of choosing one side's story over the other's.

Spring is national trauma season in the land between the River and the Sea. The wildflowers that blossom briefly after the Mediterranean winter wilt, and Jews and Palestinians relive their agonizing memories, symbiotically, backs turned to each other. Their memories negate each other. Nonetheless, they are tellings of the same story. Because there is now an American administration interested in diplomacy, because the public debate in America about Israel and Palestine may be opening up, this small truth bears mention: Deciding that one side's telling is valid, and the other's is false, is not an act of peacemaking. The trauma itself is a strategic fact, as important as topography, borders, and water. April and May is the the time of year to pay attention, because this is when Israeli and Palestinian holidays are celebrated as national passion plays. The holidays don't just commemorate the historical events that formed each nation. They teach that the sacrifices of the past are...

Netanyahu Returns

Benjamin Netanyahu is in power once again, but is he in control? After just a week back in office, Israel's prime minister is already revealing his weaknesses.

A member of the Likud party, Netanyahu served as Israel's prime minister from 1996 to 1999. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
Since my wife began writing screenplays, I get a lesson in the mechanics of a film each time we watch one together. First lesson: Pay rapt attention to the opening moments. Character is being revealed; the entire plot is being laid out, though we may not yet understand how. Take the monologue at the start of Michael Clayton , where in a manic voiceover, a lawyer insists he's not insane but rather, that his firm's work has left him covered in excrement from which he cannot cleanse himself. Yes, we will learn, this madman is the sole compass of sanity in a world where the law is utterly befouled. It's all there, the whole story. I suggest watching the opening scenes of Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power -- call it Bibi II -- in the same way. It's not just that the Netanyahu Cabinet, which met for the first time this Sunday, is the largest in Israel's history or that key positions are held by politicians manifestly unqualified to deal with the crises that Israel faces. What's revealing...