The Accidental Empire
Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977
By Gershom Gorenberg
(Times Books, Hardcover, 9780805075649, 480pp.)
Publication Date: March 7, 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The untold story, based on groundbreaking original research, of the actions and inactions that created the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories
After Israeli troops defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in June 1967, the Jewish state seemed to have reached the pinnacle of success. But far from being a happy ending, the Six-Day War proved to be the opening act of a complex political drama, in which the central issue became: Should Jews build settlements in the territories taken in that war?
The Accidental Empire is Gershom Gorenberg's masterful and gripping account of the strange birth of the settler movement, which was the child of both Labor Party socialism and religious extremism. It is a dramatic story featuring the giants of Israeli history--Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Yigal Allon--as well as more contemporary figures like Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres. Gorenberg also shows how the Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations turned a blind eye to what was happening in the territories, and reveals their strategic reasons for doing so.
Drawing on newly opened archives and extensive interviews, Gorenberg reconstructs what the top officials knew and when they knew it, while weaving in the dramatic first-person accounts of the settlers themselves. Fast-moving and penetrating, The Accidental Empire casts the entire enterprise in a new and controversial light, calling into question much of what we think we know about this issue that continues to haunt the Middle East.
Gershom Gorenberg is a columnist and associate editor at The Jerusalem Report. He is the author of The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount and co-author of Shalom, Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, Ha'aretz, and Ma'ariv. Born in America and educated at the University of California and Hebrew University, Gorenberg lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
A thoroughly documented, pathbreaking analysis of Israel's disastrous settlement project in the occupied territories; it reads like a chapter in Barbara Tuchman's well-known book, The March of Folly."
--Amos Elon, author of The Pity of It All and The Israelis: Founders and Sons
"The Accidental Empire is an extraordinary book. It offers insight and understanding into a period that has never been well understood. After the 1967 war, few in Israel recognized the inherent problems of building Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line, for they were torn between reason and spiritual attachment to the land. As Gershom Gorenberg shows in this wonderfully written history, the building of settlements took on a life of its own--too easy to do, too hard to stop, and too easy to simply let happen."
--Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, and author of
The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace
"A groundbreaking investigation into the origins of one of the most contentious issues in Arab-Israeli relations--and in the Middle East--and a valuable reference for journalists, students, and scholars interested in the region."
--Michael B. Oren, author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the
Making of the Modern Middle East
"Gershom Gorenberg has given us a meticulously researched, dispassionate and highly readable history of how Israel slipped into the settlement of occupied lands. The Accidental Empire is an invaluable guide to one of the Middle East's most complex issues and will puncture illusions on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
--Jackson Diehl, columnist, The Washington Post
"The Accidental Empire casts a stark light on Israel's settlement of the lands it gained in the Six-Day War. Gershom Gorenberg contends that the Israeli left, as well as the Orthodox right, backed a policy that, though born of a felt need for security, encumbered the quest for peace--and that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger also failed to foresee the long-term costs. This tragic tale suggests how a fearful nation helped foster the very threats it sought to escape."
--David Greenberg, Rutgers University, author of Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image