Identifying the elements of state building in Palestine is one of the most difficult challenges that might be confronted by any scholar or researcher. Historically speaking, Palestine was subjected to various rules and regulations that made a huge impact on the socioeconomic and political structure of the country. Ottomans, British, Jordanians, Egyptians, and finally Israelis -all of them alike- attempted to leave complex legal and structural systems designed to promote their interests over those of the Palestinian population, often whilst simultaneously trying to maintain the façade of helping the Palestinians.

When the Palestinian Authority (hereinafter PA) was established on the Gaza Strip and West Bank (hereinafter WBGS) one of its main challenges was how to deal with this debilitating heritage whilst promoting institutions and institutional capacity building, both of which began gaining momentum from 1994 onwards. In this connection, the PA was asked to build central state institutions capable of promoting good governance and democracy.

The subject of this dissertation is the process of state building in the WBGS. Its scope is limited to a specific time and place. It focuses on the period from the establishment of the PA in 1994 up to 2004, the first decade of the PA’s existence. The dissertation is an analysis of how the institutional developments that took place within WBGS in this period have contributed to the process of state building in the WBGS. In the context of this study, the period divides into two distinct epochs:


This is not to say that the developments (whether political, economic, social, etc), that occurred in each period are isolated from the developments that occurred in the other period. Indeed the contrary is the case. The two periods are intertwined and there is significant continuity. Neither epoch can be explained in isolation from the other.

One of the most notable features of the period of 1994-2000 was the Para-state institutions (or the national level institutions of state functions) which appeared in 1994. As a result of the Oslo accords Palestinians, could have their legislative, ministerial, and bureaucratic bodies. In the aftermath of the elections that took place in January 1996, the elected president Yasser Arafat, was mandated to propose the members of the first Cabinet in Palestinian history. The President and the Cabinet members form, according to the Oslo agreements/accords, the executive authority. For the purposes of this dissertation, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will be understood as the executive authority together with the Bureaucracy and the Palestinian security forces.


In the same year, members of the first Palestinian legislative assembly were elected. The assembly, which was inaugurated in March of the same year, become to be known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (hereinafter PLC). The PLC is composed of 88 members and only represented Palestinians of WBGS (including Palestinians of East Jerusalem), and thus excluded Palestinian refugees in exile.

Alongside the PLC was the Palestinian bureaucracy which was introduced for the first time in Palestinian history. The Oslo process enabled Palestinians to take control over their civil affairs. In this regard, Palestinians from 1994 onward were able to run their affairs in various civil fields such as health, social affairs, education, transportation, infrastructure, and so on.

Thus the Para-state institutions (the cabinet, the legislative assembly, bureaucracy, and so on) were already on the ground. It is, therefore, important to study the conditions through which these institutions came into being and then analyse their functions and relationships with each other and with Palestinian society. In this regard, the following questions come to mind:


To answer these questions, I introduce a brief discussion over the theories of state in chapter I (the State: Theoretical Framework and Arab State) before moving on to discuss the main features of the Arab state. Obviously Palestine has a shared political, economic, and cultural history with the rest of the Arab world. I therefore use the discussion of the process of state building within the Arab world in order to situate the narrower context of Palestine.

In chapter II (Palestinian Autonomy: Historical Overview), I discuss the historical development of state building in Palestine. In so doing, I am focusing my attention at the historical development of Palestinian access to national & local level institutions of state functions. By national level institutions of state functions I mean the Cabinet and Parliament. By local level institutions of state functions I mean the municipal and rural councils.


I argue in chapter II that the Para-state institutions which had emerged since 1994 were not born in vacuum. Rather, they are an institutional culmination of a historical process of state building. In fact, Palestinians- throughout their history- have always had some level of access to state institutions (local level institutions) but only intermittently had access to national level institutions of state functions. However, at all times and regardless of the level of access, Palestinians have always been constrained in their access by their ruler. It was the Oslo process which made it possible (in theory) for everyone to have full access at all levels.

In chapter III, therefore, I move to discuss the Oslo process, and the power conflict associated the rise of the PA (the first Para-state institution provided by Oslo process) at both the Palestinian-Palestinian level as well as Palestinian-Israeli level. The chapter touches also the PA relation with Palestinian society, including the political and civil society in addition to the general public. Furthermore, the chapter discusses the PA mode of government, and how this mode denied the majority of Palestinians access the national level institutions of state functions (mainly the Cabinet).

In chapter IV, I discuss the structure of the second Palestinian national institution of state functions, which is the PLC. In this connection, the chapter discusses the Palestinian elections of 1996 which introduced the PLC, and the relation of the PLC with the executive authority (PA), and to what extent such a relation is governed according to the democratic principles of the rule of law, transparency, and the separation of powers.


Then I move in chapter V to discuss how the PA mode of government influenced the structure of the bureaucratic system. In other words, the chapter discusses the main features of the Palestinian bureaucracy which emerged for the first time in Palestinian history in 1994, and to what extent this system managed to fulfil its responsibilities of supplying people with the main services. Moreover, the same chapter discuses how the PA mode of government influenced the structure and shape of local government institutions in a manner that hindered the emergence of professional local authorities.

The chapter goes further to show how, in response to PA mode of government, the opponents of Oslo process (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and PFLP) laid down the foundation of their Para-state institutions, and practised Para-state functions parallel to PA formal institutions. In so doing, these opponents were motivated not only by their opposition to PA mode of government, but mainly by their opposition to the Oslo process and what might be derived from such a process, including the Para-state institutions of the PA.

This fact contributed to the picture of “state within a state” in the WBGS. That is why the reform emerged at the top Palestinian agenda during Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2004). The final chapter, therefore, discusses the extent to which Palestinians managed to revise this picture and to build their state in terms of a centralized monopoly on the use of force by a legitimate/representative governing body that has the ability to issue territorially binding rules.

Note on the Methodology


The dissertation’s main hypothesis is that; the process of building a state in terms of central, autonomous, and differentiated organization that monopolizes coercion and has the capacity to issue territorially binding rules is not separate from the process of building a state in terms of external sovereignty. The completion of the later process is a pre-condition for the success of the former process.” The dissertation hypothesis, therefore, is an explanatory one. The best research methodology to test such kind of hypothesis is “observation by using case study analysis”.1

Though a case study might be criticized for the fact that its results cannot be generalized to other cases and remain applied to the case under study, it remains the best method to have decisive evidence for or against a political theory. More importantly, it tells us not only whether the hypothesis holds, but also why. This is considered to be the essence of the case study’s format of “process tracing” with its focus on the “cause-effect link”. The process tracing format of case study analysis implies the following up of the sequence of events which evidences that a given cause produce a given effect in a given case, and to rely on the testimonies/statements of the actors who experienced these events to find out why these actors acted as they did. 2

In this connection the interviews emerge as the most important research instrument and source of data. Alongside them are the documents, reports, newspapers, periodicals, articles, internet sites, and books. During my writing of this dissertation, I carried out two field trips: the first one was in the period of September-mid October 2003. The aim of that trip was to collect a number of books and documents about issues related to Palestinian state building. In this regard, the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights was of crucial help. The Centre put its library at my disposal 24 hours a day, and offered me all the facilities and support I needed.


In the period of August-November 2004, another field trip was carried out in the Gaza Strip. The aim that time was to interview the relevant actors in Palestinian state building (Palestinian Authority officials, members of Palestinian Legislative Council, & NGOs representative). Once again the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights was of crucial help as it put its newspapers archive at my disposal, and offered me an office and computer as well as free access to the Internet. Without the Center’s help, my fieldwork would not have been successful.

In the fieldwork I have done I have encountered huge difficulties, mainly due to the Israeli policy of collective punishment against Palestinians. This policy, which widely pursued by Israeli since the outbreak of Al- Aqsa Initifada in September 2000 onward, had denied all Palestinians of the occupied territories the right to free movement between the cities, towns, and villages of West Bank and Gaza Strip. Alongside it is the comprehensive closure which has been imposed preventing movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank since 1991. In addition to the problems resulting from closure is the shelling of and the incursions into the camps, towns, and cities. These acts, which have become routine during the intifada, have created an environment in which it has become increasingly difficult for research, for data collection and even for daily travel from my parents home in Rafah to the office I work from in Gaza city.

During my second fieldwork trip (August-November 2004), I was unable to travel from my home to the various offices on 25 days. Moreover, even on the days which I was able to travel there were often enormous delays at the Israeli checkpoints. I would estimate that each journey each way (between Rafah and Gaza City) took me an average of 2.5 hours, quite apart from the humiliation and danger each day of travel brings. The two most dangerous aspects of the daily commute occur at the Israeli checkpoints of Abu Houli and al-Matahin. Palestinians waiting to cross them (often for hours) are frequently shot at by the Israeli soldiers who control the checkpoints. Along with many Palestinians I was put through the process of a full strip search, at al-Matahin checkpoint, on the pretext of searching for explosives, something they could have seen I was not carrying once I had lifted up my shirt.


Despite the long delays to my travel I was usually able to ensure (on the days travel was possible) that I was on time for meetings I had arranged to interview members of the PA, even if this meant getting up at 4.30 in the morning. However, despite the effort I put into making the meetings, my efforts were by no means always acknowledged let alone reciprocated by those I sought to interview. For example having been given a time to see him it took me one month of going every day before I got to interview the Deputy Minister of Finance.

Despite these problems, I have carried out several interviews with the different concerned actors (PA officials, members of Palestinians Legislative Council, NGOs representatives). Each interview lasted on average for one and half hours. It took me 5 hours on average to transcribe each interview. During these interviews, I directed the following guiding questions:

Questions to high ranking civil servants


  1. What is the number of your ministry’s civil servants?
  2. What is the average compensation of these servants?
  3. What is the Ministry’s annual allotment?
  4. What is the number of Director-Generals, Deputy Ministers, of the Ministry?
  5. What is the main problem your ministry encountered during the intifada?
  6. Do you think that the recruitment system of the Palestinian bureaucracy is efficient/ inefficient?
  7. In either case, why?
  8. To what extent do you think the reform is necessary for Palestinians?

Questions to PLC members

  1. How do you assess the relation between PA and PLC?
  2. To what extent was this relation influenced by the ongoing intifada?
  3. Did the PLC encounter difficulties in carrying out its work during the intifada?
  4. If yes, what were these difficulties?
  5. How did such difficulties influence PLC’s relation with PA?
  6. Do you think that the PA apparatus should be reformed?
  7. Why do you think so?
  8. How might these apparatus be reformed?


Questions to the representatives of the Opponents Para-State Institutions

  1. Why do you think that the presence of your organization is important?
  2. What kind of services does your organization offer to the public?
  3. Do you receive any financial support from the PA?
  4. How do you assess the relation of your organization with the PA?
  5. How many times were you (interviewee) or any member of your organization subject to PA harassment (detention for example)?

Alongside these interviews, there were several interviews which I had done during my work at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. At that time I was working in the Democratic Development Unit. As a researcher, my area of interest was the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) as well as the Right to Freedom of Expression under the PA. Throughout the years of my work, I carried out several interviews with PLC members. The transcripts of some of these interviews were used in this study and were of crucial help in drafting some chapters of this dissertation, in particular chapter IV.


The press was used in parallel to the interviews as a source of data and information. In this regard, the Palestinian newspapers of Al Hayat Al-Jadeeda, Al Quds, Al-Ayyam, Al-Bilad, Al -Risalah, Al-Istiqlal, and Al-Quds Al-Arabi were of vital help. Alongside them were the Israeli newspapers like Yidot Ahrnot, and the Jerusalem Post. Arab newspapers were also used. Among these newspapers were the London-based of Al Hayat, and Al Sharq Al Awsat. The data obtained from these newspapers were supplemented by the data obtained from the international newspapers like the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and others.

In addition to the press, periodicals have been used in this dissertation. The most important of these periodicals were the local ones like Al Waqaea’, the formal gazette of PA, the Palestine-Israel Journal, Journal of Palestine Studies, and Palestine Report. Alongside the local periodicals were the Arab ones like Arab-Studies Journal, and international ones like the Middle East Policy, the Middle East International, and Journal of Middle East Review (MERIA).

Internet articles having a relation to the topic were also used, and some information was obtained from the websites of human rights organizations, as well as other organizations working on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and international news agencies (e.g., CNN, BBC). The books had been used to draft chapter I, and were of great help for the completion of the discussion of chapter II.

Footnotes and Endnotes

1  Stephen Van Evera. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1997, Pp.50-55.

2  Ibid., Pp.55-67.

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