The third post in a series offering a perspective on the conflict in Palestine.
Human rights and the future of Palestine | Location location | A time between empires | Zionism as a colonial project | Jewish migration to Palestine | Dividing Palestine | The war of 1948 | Wars and rumors of war | Palestinian resistance | Creating a shared future in Palestine
For most of the past 5,000 years Palestine has been a remote province in a vast empire whose capital was far from Jerusalem. Despite the legends of an extensive empire ruled by David and Solomon, there has never been a powerful society based in Palestine with the capacity to project its power over anyone beyond a few small regional city states. Even then, the local warlords only had such opportunities when there was no dominant empire.
The empires which have dominated Palestine during the past 5,000 years includes Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Alexander the Great and his successor empires (the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria and Mesopotamia), then Rome, the Byzantines, and a series of Islamic dynasties (Umayyad, Abbasid, Seljuk, Mamluk and Ottoman). The most recent of these great empires were the Ottomans, who dominated the area from 1517 to 1918.
The next empire is yet to emerge.
We are in one of the periods of chaos between empires.
It is just over 100 years since the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire, but as yet no new empire has arisen in the region. In this intermediate period the smaller powers are flexing their muscles and experiencing a brief moment of autonomy.
In the case of Israel that has been based almost entirely on the strategic support of the US which has provided diplomatic cover for Israel at the UN Security Council while ensuring it has the latest weapons to maintain military supremacy within its immediate neighborhood.
Some analysts suggest that the next regional empire to control the Middle East generally, and Palestine in particular will be based either in Egypt, Iran or Turkey.
While Israel may survive as a nation state within the larger political arrangements of the Middle East, it will also need to come to terms with its location in that region and cease imagining itself as a European nation with a strange zip code. Sooner or later the longer term regional dynamics will reassert themselves after the short-lived interruption of Anglo-American supremacy following two global wars during the twentieth century.