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

No Empire Strikes Back

The days of unilateral imperial action are gone—American power is not enough to solve the conflicts in Egypt and Syria.  

AP Images/British Official photo
AP Images/British Official Photo A story from the Middle East's past to help understand its present: One evening in Cairo, British Ambassador Sir Miles Lampson arrived at the royal palace accompanied by the commander of the British army in Egypt and "stalwart military officers armed to the teeth." While he waited to meet King Farouk, Lampson heard "the rumble of [British] tanks and armoured cars, taking up positions round the palace." It was February 1942 ; Nazi general Erwin Rommel's Afrikakorps threatened to conquer Egypt, and the British wanted a government firmly in the Allied camp. Lampson demanded that the young, Axis-leaning king abdicate, but accepted a compromise: Farouk appointed the head of the Wafd Party, Mustafa al-Nahhas Pasha, to head a pro-British government. "So much for the events of the evening, which I confess I could not have enjoyed more," wrote Sir Miles, reporting to London on his coup d'état. In the days of empires, superpowers could deal with Middle Eastern...

Mind Eraser: Israel Forgets Its Own Border

The country's leaders and much of its public have repressed memories of where pre-1967 national boundaries lie.  

AP Images/Sebastian Scheiner
I stood on the silent street that circles a hilltop industrial park called Har Hotzvim in Jerusalem. The name means Stonecutter Mountain, but nothing as loud or low-tech as cutting stones happens there. Intel has a plant in the park, and the giant Israeli pharmaceutical company, Teva, has two. Software and biotech firms fill office buildings. I turned my back to the buildings and looked at the steep slope descending to the north. Below the street, unmarked on the hillside, runs the Green Line, the pre-1967 border of Israel. The City of Jerusalem's veterinary institute, hidden by trees in the valley below, is past that border, in land Israel conquered in June 1967. The tech companies and Teva's pharma factories are within pre-1967 Israel. Keep this in mind: dog doctors over the Green Line; pill production inside. It's not difficult if you have a map that shows the line, but the government of Israel got it wrong—top government agencies are accusing each other of publicly labeling the...

There's No Nate Silver in Middle Eastern Politics

AP Photo/Israeli Army Photo, File
Sipa via AP Images T wo months ago, no one was forecasting that Egyptian democracy activists and generals would join forces to overthrow the country's president. Two months ago, sensible experts all knew that Kerry's Folly—the secretary of state's attempt to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks—would never succeed. The Middle East is not kind to expectations. It has no Nate Silver who can scientifically calculate the odds of when war, revolution, or even peace will break out. Morsi is gone; the talks have begun. Viewing the two events through the same lens leads to—well, let's not call it a prediction, but a word of caution: The toughest issue for the Israeli, Palestinian, and American negotiators could be what to do about Hamas-ruled Gaza. With Morsi's fall has come the reversal of Hamas's standing in Cairo. It's not just that the deposed president represented the Muslim Brotherhood and that Hamas, born as the Brotherhood's Palestinian branch, is tarred by association. The Egyptian...

Netanyahu versus the EU

EU sanctions against Israeli settlements are a warning from friends that their patience has run out.

Sipa via AP Images
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File "T his is the chronicle of a crisis foretold years in advance," said the Israeli ex-ambassador to Germany, in that petulant tone of a diplomat working very hard not to sound infuriated. Shimon Stein was trying to explain new European Union sanctions against Israeli settlements. Neither journalists nor politicians should sound so shocked by the EU move, he lectured the anchor of state radio's morning news program. He was right, but he was trying to outshout a hurricane of public anger and disbelief. The anchor herself had begun the show with a riff of indignant surprise that the EU considered her Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem to be a settlement. Of course, the EU position has consistently been that the country called Israel is defined by its pre-1967 borders, or Green Line—and that anything built beyond those borders is not part of Israel. The sanctions are designed to give more teeth to that position. Under new budget guidelines, EU bodies must...

The War Next Door

Horrifying as the Syrian civil war is, Israel's best policy option is to stay out.

AP Images/Ariel Schalit
AP Images/Ariel Schalit In an age-long past—we're talking about more than two years ago—the country to Israel's northeast was ruled by a stable but despotic regime. After the battering that it took in its 1973 war with Israel, Syria carefully kept the de facto border quiet. But the regime outsourced the conflict to proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, so that the bloodletting between the countries never really stopped. Meanwhile the ruling Assad dynasty stockpiled missiles and poison gas. It would be hard to say that anyone in Israel is exactly nostalgic for those bad old days. Then again, it's hard to find anyone who expects better days ahead. The first thing that a local Syria-watcher or ex-general will tell you is that the Israeli government hasn't managed to decide what it wants to see happen in Syria. The second thing that she or he will say is that this doesn't really matter: Israel can't influence the outcome, and all the realistic possibilities look awful. Right now, even the...

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