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Every day politicians and pundits talk of another chance at Middle East peace missed, delayed or subverted. The focus is always on Palestinians and Israelis as the keystone to a global settlement with the West and across the region. But in the original peace arrangement between the Jews, Arabs and the Western powers, it was not settlements and Jerusalem that were at the heart of the problem. In fact, the Arabs originally agreed to a Jewish state complete with massive Jewish immigration. For Arabs, the prize was not Palestine, it was Syria.
This is the story of how the original Middle East peace plan crafted among all sides in the aftermath of World War I was subverted - not by Jews or Zionists, but by the French.
It begins at the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919, in a flag-bedecked, battle-scarred but victorious Paris. There, the great top-hatted Allied men of vision and illusion gathered to remake the world and invent the post-Ottoman Middle East. At those fateful meetings, the Arabs and Jews formally agreed to mutually endorse both their national aspirations and live in peace.
At the height of its power (16th–17th century), it spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. The Ottoman Empire contained 29 provinces and numerous vassal states; some of which were later absorbed into the empire, while others gained various types of autonomy during the course of centuries. The empire also temporarily gained authority over distant overseas lands through declarations of allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan and Caliph, such as the declaration by the Sultan of Aceh in 1565; or through the temporary acquisitions of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, such as Lanzarote (1585).
The empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. With Constantinople as its capital city, and vast control of lands around the eastern Mediterranean during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 to 1566), the Ottoman Empire was, in many respects, an Islamic successor to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.