The fate of Palestine, a land that holds deep religious significance for the world’s major religions, has been a central focus of social and political processes for millennia. In the context of modern times, the Palestinian question has been at the forefront of 20th-century international politics. However, it seems that we may be witnessing the end of this era today.
The events of the last century, starting with the First World War, marked the beginning of the collapse of European empires and the redrawing of borders. Self-determination became a prevalent idea in the Middle East, including Palestine, which various peoples regarded as their ancestral homeland. The horrors of the Holocaust during the Second World War led to the consideration of creating a Jewish state, which sparked intense conflict from the start. This conflict became part of the broader Cold War, with superpowers exerting influence over regional powers. While the bipolar world did not bring peace to the Middle East, it did provide a framework to prevent uncontrolled patronage.
With the end of the Cold War, there was hope for calm and justice in the region. The peace process, which culminated in the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, aimed to establish two states in Palestine, as declared by the UN in 1948. However, this well-crafted plan faced significant challenges due to the historical and socio-political realities of the region, resulting in a stagnation of progress. The last major development was the imposition of “free democratic elections” in Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2006. While the US intended democracy to solve the region’s problems, it inadvertently led to the rise of Hamas, which won the elections but was not recognized by the US. This eventually led to the violent seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza.
Throughout the past century, external forces have played a significant role in the region’s history. While the composition of these forces has changed over time, their influence has always been present. However, we are now witnessing a fundamental shift where external players are forced to react to events initiated by regional forces. The states in the region have a higher degree of self-determination, pursuing their national interests as they see fit. Meanwhile, major countries are running out of effective coercive tools used in the past.
US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel amid the ongoing violence can be seen as a courageous political act. However, it raises suspicions that the US does not fully grasp the urgency of the situation. The US may have hoped to delay taking action, with the idea of reestablishing the old agenda once tensions subside. Their aim is also to prevent Iranian interference and assure Arab countries, especially in the Persian Gulf, that they will support them. Additionally, Biden aims to secure a package decision on financial assistance to major military clients such as Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. However, this delicate plan is now hanging by a thread.
The transition from external regulation to internal balance is challenging, and success is not guaranteed. Israel’s reliance on its overwhelming power advantage may no longer be sufficient to ensure its existence. The overall balance in the region will not shift in favor of the Jewish state, and the US may be preoccupied with other crises. Moreover, West Jerusalem has limited experience in making long-term arrangements with its neighbors without relying on the US.
The question now is whether Israel has time to adapt to this new reality and learn to live in a different way. The country is not accustomed to operating without full American support and attention. The changing dynamics in the region require a new approach, and Israel must navigate this challenging landscape.