A briefing by Efraim Karsh
Efraim Karsh is editor of the Middle East Quarterly and Professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London. He served as an intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces for seven years before obtaining graduate and doctoral degrees in international relations from Tel Aviv University. He is the author of fifteen books, including Arafat's War, Islamic Imperialism, and most recently Palestine Betrayed. On January 25th, he addressed the Middle East Forum on what the leaked Palestine Papers reveal about Arab and Palestinian aspirations for a Palestinian state.
According to Mr. Karsh, the documents recently released from Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations shed some light on the position of the Palestinian leadership and neighboring Arab states toward the creation of a Palestinian state. By tracing the history of both parties, Mr. Karsh stated that neither party has ever been, nor is, truly interested in forming a Palestinian state.
He began by discussing the Arab states, arguing that they have never wanted a Palestinian state and have done the utmost to sabotage its formation. He noted that in the 1920s, both Jordan and Syria attempted to annex the territory of Palestine for themselves. He further observed that while this is not entirely surprising, it is surprising that Palestinian leaders themselves appear to not want an independent state either.
In support of this point, he outlined the history of Palestinian leadership from the founding of the PLO. For example, Arafat had opportunities to establish a state in both 1993, with the Oslo Accords, and 2000, with the Camp David meeting. In 1993, he "made sure it would be a failure," and in 2000 he rejected Barak's offer, opting for war.
Lastly, Mr. Karsh addressed the leaked documents. He emphasized the fact that their authenticity have yet to be verified, and that the Palestinian leadership has denied their validity. He underscored that if they are authentic, they may indicate that Palestinian leadership has started thinking in terms of statehood. Yet the most interesting part of the documents has been the reaction to them: the Arab world has dished out criticism and accused the leadership of betraying the Palestinian cause, even though the concessions they agreed to were minimal in comparison to those agreed to in exchange by Israel. For those who do want a two-state solution, Mr. Karsh concluded, the documents could serve as a glimmer of hope.