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

Don't Be Naïve. That Speech Was a Revolution

flickr/AJstream
flickr/AJstream Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd after his speech last week at the Jerusalem Convention Center. After a couple of days for careful reflection, it's clear: Barack Obama gave an amazing speech. The president of the United States stood in a hall in Jerusalem, and with empathy and with bluntness that has been absent for so long we forgot it could exist, told Israelis: The occupation can't go on. It's destroying your own future. And besides that, Palestinians have "a right to … justice" and "to be a free people in their own land." If you don't think this is a breakthrough, you are letting naïve pessimism overcome realism. Yes, it's true that one speech will be worth nothing if not followed by intense American diplomacy. That comment has become banal. A realistic assessment is that Obama's visit, and the speech, were the opening act of an American diplomatic effort — a near perfect opening. The first breakthrough was in method: Obama started by negotiating with the...

Why Now, Mr. President?

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi S ome free advice for anyone who lives in Jerusalem and hasn't been invited to meet with Barack Obama: stay out of the city center from Wednesday to Friday. One major artery, King David Street, will be shut throughout the president's visit this week, and parking will be banned on a host of others, City Hall has announced. Experience teaches that traffic will tie up in knots and buses trying to get from Point A to Point B will travel via Point Z. Beyond gridlock—in the original sense of the word, vehicles sitting in mid-intersection going nowhere—the potential impact of the president's pilgrimage remains a mystery. The trip's timing suggests that Obama feels it absolutely urgent to renew the comatose Israeli-Palestinian peace process, now, before the weekend, before it expires. The pre-trip spin from Obama himself, from sundry off-record officials and from the punditocracy of two countries suggests that the president is coming, to quote Thomas Friedman , as "a...

Netanyahu's Ticking Time Bomb

While Israel fails to form a government, the West Bank could explode.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
T he clock is running out for Benjamin Netanyahu. Five weeks after his pyrrhic election victory, he is still trying to piece together a new Israeli government. The one force he has working for him is that the leaders of every other party in parliament also know how few hours are left before the buzzer sounds. Time may also be running out to prevent a third Intifada in the West Bank. But no one can say what form a new Palestinian uprising will take, or whether it will break out next year or tomorrow. The lack of a known deadline is the most charitable explanation available for the way Israeli coalition talks have been conducted, with the major parties sparring about the secondary issue of military conscription, as if neither economics nor foreign policy existed. At times like this, Israelis can envy the elegant simplicity of Italian politics. Formally, the coalition countdown began a week-and-a-half after the election, when President Shimon Peres assigned Netanyahu to form the next...

The Australian Connection

Why did Israel keep a prisoner's arrest, name and death secret, and will we ever know for sure?

Flickr/opk
H ave you heard about Israel's Prisoner X affair? I can't tell you about it, because it's secret. Actually, I will tell part of the story in a few moments, because secrets do get out, or at least pieces of secrets. First, I'll mention that the official mechanism for keeping the media in the dark was once more blatant. In my early days in Israeli journalism, in the mid-1980s, I was a night news editor at the Jerusalem Post . Every night we had to send anything related to defense and security to the military censor's office. We'd get it back either approved or with some sections blue-penciled or, on rare occasions, with the whole article censored. The process turned nerve-wracking when U.S. intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard was arrested as an Israeli spy in 1985. Because of the seven-hour time difference with Israel, the Post 's Washington correspondent, Wolf Blitzer, filed every night at the last moment. We would design one front page with his story at the top, and another without...

What If They Held an Election and Nobody Won?

Netanyahu was defeated, even if he stays in office.

AP Photo/Oded Balilty
AP Photo/Oded Balilty H ere's the very short version of the Israeli election results: Benjamin Netanyahu ran unopposed—and lost. But he's still got a very good chance of returning to the prime minister's office. In his last term, Netanyahu brought a total breakdown of negotiations with the Palestinians and stuck to a free-market orthodoxy that benefited only the richest Israelis. For those who long to see Israel change direction (as I wrote here a week ago) the most optimistic election scenario was deadlock followed by instability. As the votes were counted last night, those too obsessed to sleep saw that scenario begin to come true. At 10 p.m., exit polls predicted that the rightwing bloc of parties would reach the thinnest possible majority, 61 or 62 seats out of 120 in parliament. In the small hours of the night, when 80 percent of the actual votes were counted, the numbers evened out, 60-60. As more votes were tallied, the right's majority reappeared—and finally vanished around...

Pages