The article traces a set of regional images in international legal and diplomatic documents leading to the establishment of the Palestine Mandate (1915–22). The analysis suggests that at that important crossroad, when a new world order was imagined and negotiated, a broad, layered and diverse vision of a comprehensive ‘region’ was actively present in the minds of very different actors within the framework of empire. A vast territory was reconstructed as opening up for new ways of rule and of influence, for enhanced development and for dealing with strictly European globalised issues. That this powerful regional vision has been disregarded because of the weight of the subsequent territorial geopolitics in the Middle East is not surprising. Today, however, when classic international law responses – the state on the one hand and international cooperation on the other – prove weak and unstable, and especially vulnerable to ‘new regional threats’, it may be worthwhile to look back at a period in which the region was still imagined as a place of political possibility.