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

Middle East Diplomacy Didn't Save Nixon. It Won't Save Trump.

The president warns Israel it will have to pay a “higher price” in his peace plan. It's one more distraction.

In a week of political earthquakes, Donald Trump's riff at a rally of the faithful about the “higher price” that Israel will one day pay for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem didn't move the seismograph needle much in America. For obvious reasons, in Israel it created more headlines and inspired more commentary. In part, that's because no one knows what Trump meant, or knows if he knew what he meant—as is so often the case. Still, I think it's worth attention in Trump's home territory, if only because it adds to the sense that Trump is working from the script of The Tragical History of Richard Nixon —but performing it as farce. For practical purposes, Trump is now an unindicted co-conspirator. And he is playing with the delusion that he'll save himself with brilliant Middle East peacemaking. The key bit in Trump's soliloquy comes after he tells how the world's leaders warned him not to move the embassy: So I approved it. It should have done years ago,...

Netanyahu Wakes Up Middle Israel

The Israeli prime minister’s Nation-State Law and its attack on a “model minority” has created a storm of protest, even among moderates.

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
A bunch of protesters held up signs in the visitors’ gallery of Israel’s parliament on Wednesday, and Speaker Yuri Edelstein of the ruling Likud Party ordered the ushers to eject them. He said their behavior was “shameful and disgusting.” The signs were large copies of Israel's Declaration of Independence. You’d think that would be an uncontroversial patriotic gesture. Not in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel. The debate was a special session, called during the summer recess by the opposition to discuss the recently passed Nation-State Law. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni was at the podium, saying , “The government is tearing up the Declaration of Independence and with it, the entire nation.” The declaration has ceased being something high school students learn for tests and then semi-forget. Since the Nation-State Law passed last month, the founding document has become a rallying cry. More precisely, the part defining the state’s...

Netanyahu Cements His Place in the Illiberal International

His new Nation State Law fits his friendship with the new autocrats.

These two things happened within a few hours of each other‫: Hungary's authoritarian leader, Victor Orban, landed in Israel as the warmly welcomed guest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On a party-line vote, Israel's parliament passed Netanyahu's flagship piece of legislation, the Nation State Law—which enshrines second-class status for the country's Arab citizens as a constitutional principle. Coincidence? Yes, and no. Orban's visit wasn't orchestrated to celebrate Netanyahu's victory. The law passed in a rush before the Knesset recessed for the summer. The visit was planned separately That said, the timing was scarily perfect. The Nation State Law is a historic turning point in transforming Israel into an illiberal democracy. Netanyahu's embrace of Orban—and of other Central European leaders of his ilk, and of Donald Trump—shows his conscious identification with the new Illiberal International. The new measure was enacted as a “basic law.”...

Is #NeverBibi Enough?

You can't help wondering if Netanyahu's right-wing critics understand their role in creating him. 

Moshe Yaalon is neither left-wing nor glib. Or so anyone who knows him would have said until this week. Yaalon served as Israel's defense minister, among other posts, under Benjamin Netanyahu. At one time Yaalon was the go-to person if you wanted Netanyahu's views on permanent Israeli control of the West Bank, but in plain, very direct words , without Netanyahu's sleight of tongue. True, Yaalon left parliament, the government, and the Likud a couple of years ago over Netanyahu's mob-pleasing support for a soldier who had shot and killed a captured terrorist. And he has decried the stink of corruption wafting from the prime minister's residence. But that was at a rally of right-wing dissidents. In a radio interview this week, though, Yaalon asserted it was time to redefine terms. Once upon a time, he said, “right” and “left” in Israel referred to economics. The right was capitalist; the left, socialist. Then the words switched meaning: The right was against the...

Sara Netanyahu's Takeout Dinners May Not Be a Game-Changer

It takes more than corruption to change voters' minds. But you knew that. 

How in the world do you order $100,000 worth of takeout in Jerusalem? Such was my reflexive reaction when Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israel's prime minister, was indicted last week for fraudulently charging meals worth that much to the government. I mean, you have to work at overspending on dining in this town. At one of the classier restaurants from which she ordered, the most expensive main course on the menu, an entrecote steak, costs under $45. But the question was silly. If anyone could be so extravagant on someone else's tab, it's the Netanyahus. Reports of their determined disregard for paying the bills, their sense of royal entitlement even when Benjamin Netanyahu was out of office, go back to the beginning of his national career. The indictment does raise a couple of legal questions, like how it took this long for one Netanyahu or the other to face criminal charges. More important is a political question, one hardly restricted to Israel: How does a politician maintain electoral...

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