Of hard choices and strange bedfellows: an illuminating account of a current controversy that extends back many years, namely, Israeli settlements beyond the bounds of Israel. Well before there was an Israel, writes Jerusalem Report editor Gorenberg (The End of Days, 2000), there was a strong back-to-the-promised-land movement that urged that Jews "should return not only to the homeland, but to land itself, to the earth." Leftist and even communist, this movement resulted in an unintended perimeter of kibbutzes that bore the first shock of attacks in a series of wars. When, in 1967, Israel acquired a comparatively vast expanse of territory from Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan formulated a policy of "invisible rule," though there was no mistaking just who ruled the conquered lands. In time, some members of Dayan's circle alternately proposed giving the Gaza Strip back to Egypt and jointly ruling the West Bank with Jordan. Such magnanimity fell by the wayside with the massive sneak attack that was the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Israel lost 2,656 soldiers in 19 days-the equivalent, Gorenberg points out, of a loss of 165,000 Americans in the same period. Determined not to be caught short again, Israel established defensive positions that threaded through Arab territories, occupying the high ground and joined by roads that bypassed Arab towns and villages entirely; Gaza was effectively cordoned off, while Israeli civilian settlements punctuated occupied territory precisely "to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state." This development was spearheaded by some of the same leftist kibbutzim, though now allied with members of the religious right whose stock rose throughthe 1970s, culminating in the Likud victory of 1977-another unintended consequence, but one that has conditioned Israeli politics to this day. Thus, Gorenberg writes, the accidental empire. An exemplary history of a phenomenon that is still unfolding-for, as Ariel Sharon once urged, "Everything we don't grab will be in their hands."
“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