Significant to three religious faiths, the Eastern end of the Mediterranean around Jerusalem has the dubious honour of having been dominated twice by Western forces.
On the first occasion, Frankish knights, encouraged by Pope Urban II, captured Jerusalem in 1099 to preserve access to the Christian holy places, only to lose it to Saladin in 1187. The knights left the area for good with the fall of Acre in 1291. Then in 1948 the state of Israel was established by a UN resolution to provide a home for the survivors of the Holocaust.
During both these interludes there was and has been continuous friction with the local, mainly Muslim, people. Their initial success on both occasions stemmed from high levels of commitment, coupled with local military weakness and political divisions.
The Frankish knights were the medieval equivalent of tanks, a social class trained for war from childhood. The Israelis had military training and access to sophisticated weapons from both Europe and the US.
As time passed the Frankish leaders suffered from exceptionalism, squabbled among themselves and provoked the Arabs with gratuitous violence encouraged by greed and Christian ideology. It can be argued that the current Israeli government suffers from similar ailments.
Eventually arrogance and internal discord found the Crusader army trapped without water by a unified and well-trained Arab army at the Horns of Hattin in 1187, a disaster from which it never recovered, despite continued military support from the West in further crusades.
The Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted for 88 years. The current state of Israel has been in existence for 76. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it can resonate. If Gaza is a trap designed to unite the Arab world, Israel could be in an existential crisis irrespective of continued US support.
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