Chapter III: Gaining Autonomy through Oslo
On the Peace, the People, and the Authority


“I think that what is being discussed in Israel now is not whether the Palestinians should have a state or should not have a state, an entity or not entity. What they are discussing is the size, the capital, what should be included, whether it should be armed or not armed…”236

With these words, former Palestinian Minister of Local Government and Chief Palestinian Negotiator Sa’eb Erekat described the shift in the Israeli position toward the Palestinian entity promoted by the Declaration of Principles (DOP) made on the 20th of August 1993. Erekat’s main point was that the DOP highlighted Israel’s formal recognition of Palestinian national existence, and thus transferred the issue of Palestinian entity from the realm of theoretical possibility into that of empirical reality.


Nonetheless, the above recognition did not imply Israeli recognition of a Palestinian right to self-determination and statehood. From the Israeli point of view, the DOP stated that a change in the status quo had prevailed for the first time since the Israeli occupation of WBGS in 1967; yet as far as Israel was concerned the scope of this change must remain subject to open-ended negotiations which should be regulated mainly by the principle of a power-balance apart from any international legality, and which should leave the door open for every possibility (including that of a Palestinian state). This was the Israeli logic of peace upon which the DOP rested, and according to which Israel conditionally recognized the right of Palestinians to take control over some crucial features of any negotiated state.

The Background Behind and Rise of the PA

With conditional recognition of Palestinian national existence and the Cairo Agreement (signed on 4 May 1994, regarding the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area),237 Israeli forces pulled out of parts of the Gaza Strip and withdrew completely from the West Bank city of Jericho (which constitutes approximately 1% of the West Bank). The Palestinian Authority (PA) was established to replace the outgoing Israeli forces. Following was an Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement regarding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (known as the Taba Agreement, or Oslo II), which was signed onSeptember 28, 1995. In December 1995 arrangements issuing from these events extended to the PA partial/full rule over a further 27% of the West Bank, and promised further extension of PA rule over the whole of the West Bank (excluding the settlements) by the end of 1997.

The rule of the PA, according to these agreements, had been specified to cover only civil spheres, and was to be applied only to Palestinians in the self-ruled areas, excluding Palestinians in East Jerusalem and those who lived in the Jewish settlements built in self-ruled areas which; along with those regarding refugees, borders, foreign relations, water, and other matters (e.g., the issue of final status), were agreed to be negotiated during the final status talks set for the beginning of the third year of the five-year interim period.


The clock regulating this period would begin to tick on the arrival of the PA in Gaza and Jericho (May 1994). Under the agreements, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 were to be implemented. Until agreement over final status issues was reached, Israel would keep control of external security, borders, and foreign relations. Moreover, she would maintain the right to extend her jurisdictions over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and to control the military posts and the bypass roads surrounding these settlements. Altogether these areas constitute approximately 40% of the Gaza Strip and 72% of West Bank. Israel also retained the right to review PA legislation regarding civil powers.

By virtue of these agreements the PA, whose composition was limited to 24 members (Article IV of the Cairo Agreement) was empowered with legislative, executive, and judicial authority to handle civil issues. The legislative authority of the PA included the promulgation of primary and secondary legislation, including the basic law or constitution for the interim period, and other matters. However, Article VII. 3 of the Cairo Agreement enabled Israel to veto any legislation inconsistent with her interests.

With the conclusion of Oslo II, in order to enable the PA to assume rule over further territories (as provided by Oslo II) the composition of the PA, previously constructed to correlate with the Palestinian Council, was expanded to 82 elected members for the duration of the interim period. The chairman of the executive branch (authority) of this council was to be elected by Palestinians at the same time as they elected the members of the Palestinian Council, and would form with them the interim Palestinian self-government. (Articles I, II, III, IV, and V of Oslo II).


Thus, for the purpose of our discussion the term PA will be understood as meaning the executive authority (including the President) of the Palestinian self-government alongside those Palestinian security forces provided for by article VIII of the Cairo Agreement; these forces were allowed for to serve the aim of keeping “public order and internal security for Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area”. Article III of Annex I of the same agreement established the population of these forces at 9,000, out of which up to 7,000 were recruited from abroad. It was agreed that the forces would be distributed among the Civil Police (Al Shurta), Public Security (or as it is commonly known: the National Security Force Qwaat Al Amn Al Watani), General Intelligence (El Mukhabbarat al-Amma), Emergency Services and Rescue (Al Difa’a Al Madani), and the Palestinian Coastal Police.

These five security branches were the only branches the PA was permitted by the Cairo Agreement to establish. Yet with the conclusion of Oslo II and the subsequent extension of PA rule over further cities and towns in the West Bank, the PA was later permitted to increase the number of its security forces to 30,000, out of which up to 12,000 were to be deployed in the West Bank, and 18,000 to be deployed in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the PA was also permitted to establish additional security branches including Preventive Security, and Amn Al Ri’asah (Presidential Security) (Article. IV of Annex I of the Oslo II/ Taba agreement).

Accordingly, in a strict legal sense, the Palestinian security forces was to be composed of seven security branches; however this number was likely to prove fluid during the interim period as local residents joined these forces and new branches emerged. At least four security branches did emerge: the Military Intelligence, Military Police (said to be attached to Military intelligence), Air Guard, and Special Security (Al Amn El Khas). The proliferation of the Palestinian security forces and local residents’ participation in them, according to some, increased their total number to approximately 50,000 security personnel.


With 50,000 security personnel, the autonomous areas were said in 1998 to be the most heavily policed territories in the world, having one security person per every 59 residents (the estimated population of the autonomous areas was 2,958,579 in 1998). Most of these forces were either recruited from groups of ex-PLO militants, or had been Fatah activists during the Intifada, in particular connected to armed popular committees (such as qwaat Dariba, or Strike Forces) and popular committees (like Lijan Sha’biya) which had been dissolved after Oslo. Consequently, the PA’s various security branches served to contain these activists and created a protective vanguard for Arafat’s policy and rule.

Administratively, the forces are noteworthy for how their responsibilities overlapped, and the unclear & ambiguous delineation of their functions and mandates. With the exception of the Special and Presidential Security Forces that operated under Arafat’s command, all the forces were directed by Palestinian officials, who reported to Arafat alone (he exercised ultimate authority over them). They lacked any sort of coordination with each other, and acted without reference to law or due legal procedures. Alongside the PA’s various security forces, Islamist militants including the Izz al-Din Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and Islamic Jihad militants could establish themselves as clandestine organizations enjoying autonomous status outside of PA control.

The positioning of the Izz al-Din Qassam brigades along with the Islamic Jihad militants outside of the PA’s control implied the PA’s lack of a crucial feature of any sovereignty: a monopoly on the use of coercive force. Faisal El-Husayni, a former PLO member and director of Orient House in East Jerusalem, expressed an awareness of the importance of monopolizing coercion in any modern state when he called upon people “to stop using weapons and to hand them over to the Palestinian Authority...with the presence of the Palestinian security, there is no need for people to maintain using weapons”. Thus, from the very beginning the PA was asked to assert itself as a sole source of coercion.


This challenge reveals a major feature of post-Oslo Palestinian politics: that it had to unfold as a politics of state-in-making within Palestinian territories subject to the context of peace process parameters. This political scramble weakened the role of the PLO and its independent militant groups (like the PFLP, the DFLP, and so on), as well as its political institutions like the PNC and the executive committee; moreover, it limited the role of these institutions to that of “broker” for the newly emerging PA and its peace policy.

The rise of the PA as a central authority within the Palestinian territories, which had the rights to monopolize coercion and to rule society within the context of the peace process parameters, revised the premises of Palestinian politics. Unlike the PLO era, in which various Palestinian militant groups enjoyed independent status and representation in various PLO institutions based on a quota system, the PA was dominated by Fatah-affiliated officials who sought — within the context of the peace process — to evolve this authority into a state with derivative attributes including a monopoly on coercion.

The PA was also asked to deal with the negative economic repercussions of the 27 years of Israeli occupation of the WBGS. In seeking to subordinate the economy of the WBGS to her priorities and needs, Israel discouraged the development of large-scale industrialization and had treated the WBGS as a market for her products and as a source of cheap labour. Due to such policies the economy of WBGS had become very much connected to the Israeli economy, and the livelihood of a large segment of Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip was dependent on employment within Israel. On the eve of the first Intifada in 1987, for instance, the WBGS constituted one of the largest markets for Israeli products, with approximately 961.2 million USD states as the value of WBGS imports from Israel vs. the 303.7 million USD said to be the value of the WBGS’s exports to Israel. In the meantime, no less than 40% of the WBGS’s labour forces were working inside Israel. This reduced the contribution of the WBGS’s GDP to the GNP by about 18% during the period of 1970-1987.


The economy of WBGS witnessed further deterioration during the years of the first Intifada (1987-1993), manifested as the significant contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP (33% of GDP issued from agricultural fields) and a weak investment in infrastructure (3% of GDP).244 The overall result of this situation was low Palestinian GDP. Indeed, Palestinian GDP was estimated at 4.1% of Israeli GDP (whose estimation was 62,000 million USD), and in 1992 low Palestinian GNP per capita was estimated at 16% of Israeli GNP per capita (estimated at 11,760 USD). With the implementation of the Israeli policy of "closure” the deterioration of WBGS’s economy only sped up.

The policy of closure, which is regarded as an Israeli innovation, was first implemented in 1991 during the first Gulf War; the West Bank and Gaza Strip were sealed for approximately six consecutive weeks. Though Israel claims that this closure was implemented for security reasons, a careful scrutiny of the Zionist ideology upon which the state of Israel was founded indicates that the closure was actually carried out with racist and political considerations. The chief objective of closure is to separate Palestinians from Jews in a way that secures the “Jewishness” of the state of Israel.

The foundation for this idea was laid down on the arrival of the second Aliyah (wave of Jewish immigrants) in Palestine in the period 1904-1914. Most of this wave’s members, a population estimated at 25,000, were inspired by the ideology of the Russian-based movement of “Lovers of Zion”, which strongly advocated the re-building of a pure Jewish political, economic, and ethical identity. Toward this end, members of this wave, including David Ben-Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister), Yitzhak Ben-Zni (the second President of Israel), Moshe Sharett, and Levi Eshkol (both became Israeli Prime Ministers), advocated the principle of “Kibbush Ha’avoda” (Hebrew for “conquest of Labour”). This principle called for reliance on Jewish labour and the exclusion of Arab/Palestinian labour from Jewish settlements as a means of strengthening Jewish ties to the country's soil. The concept appears to have been invoked in the last decade, but in the more comprehensive form of closure.


Closure regulations deny Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip access to Jerusalem (including East Jerusalem) and Israeli territory, and forbid movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by people without permits. To obtain such a permit, an individual is subjected to strict security scrutiny, and in most cases, the permit is denied. All Palestinians, including professionals, merchants, workers inside Israeli territory, Gazan students in the West Bank’s universities, those seeking medical treatment in Israel or Jerusalem, and so forth, are asked to have permits. Should the permit be granted, it is subject to various restrictions regarding time (specific hours for entry and exit) and duration (for example, a permit might be issued for a day, week, et cetera).

Due to these restrictions, a large portion of the estimated 40% of the WBGS’s labour forces (the total of which was estimated at 312,000 in 1991) employed inside Israel before the closure either lost their work or became engaged in more casual labour on a daily/weekly basis; the latter depended on whether they were granted a permit, and on the duration of the permit. This meant that the future of these workers became hostage to political shifts within the territories. When there was stability they could get work some days inside Israel, and when there wasn't stability they could not.

The PA, therefore, inherited from Israel a regressive economic system and generally destroyed infrastructure. To preserve the new political order stimulated by the Oslo agreements, and to preserve the peace process, the PA, Israel, and the United States agreed that a new economic order was necessary to re-define the asymmetrical economic relationship between Israel and Palestinians. Against this background, the PLO, on behalf of the PA, signed the Protocol on Economic Relations with the Israeli government in Paris on 29 April 1994, and this was annexed to the Cairo Agreement (Annex IV).


By virtue of the Protocol on Economic Relations, the PA was able to set up a Monetary Authority (the PMA) to supervise and regulate the banking sector and to assume the fiscal powers the Israeli government had held within the territories. These powers included bank licensing and regulating foreign exchange transactions, in addition to others (Art. IV, 1-7). Even so, the PMA was denied any right to issue an independent Palestinian currency, and Israeli currency (Israeli New Shekel, NIS) remained the official tender in the territories; the US dollar and Jordanian dinar, in addition to the Egyptian pound (in the Gaza Strip) are also commonly used. The refusal to allow an independent Palestinian currency denied the PA the capacity to design its own monetary policy, particularly with respect to establishing interest rates and currency values. Accordingly, the Palestinian economy was continually at the mercy of Israeli currency fluctuations.

Still, the PA was granted some economic freedom insofar as its imports from Arab countries (mainly Jordan and Egypt) were concerned. Article III enabled the PA to set up an independent import policy, which included the rate of customs, purchasing taxes, and establishing levies on all goods and products imported from these countries. In so doing, the PA was restrained by the criteria of the GATT 1994 agreement (Art. III. 2, b). The PA import policy was to be confined to specific goods and products specified in Appendix I and II of the protocol; specified products included food and agricultural products, construction materials, household electric appliances, as well as capital goods (e.g., farm machinery, equipment used within the textile industry, and so forth).

All goods and products not included in the mentioned categories were subjected to Israeli import policies, including Israeli customs, purchase taxes, and levies (Art. III. 10). As the result of Israeli custom taxes being imposed on these goods, the PA was forced to increase the customs taxes on these goods and products when Israel did, a situation which had negative economic ramifications given the low Palestinian GNP per capita (as compared with Israeli GNP per capita).


Furthermore, the PA was not absolutely free to decide the specific quantities to be imported of the goods and products over which it exercised independent import policy. Art. III. 2 restrained the PA in this respect by connecting such quantities to the Palestinian market needs that were agreed would be decided by a sub-committee of experts from both sides (Art. III. 3). The sub-committee was derived from the Palestinian-Israeli Joint Economic Committee (JEC) which was set up by virtue of Art. II. 1 to oversee the implementation of the protocol. Thus the PA became hostage to the committee’s interpretation of market needs. These needs were connected mainly to the Palestinian marginal propensity to consume (MPC), a variable that was extremely uncertain in light of the unstable political situation in the WBGS. The overall outcome, therefore, is that the PA’s ability to accrue financial gain from such new import regulations was uncertain and subject to unexpected changes in local demand.

Despite this, the PA enjoyed other financial channels due to its right of direct taxation; these included income and property taxes (Art. V.1-3), in addition to indirect taxation including VAT set at a rate of 15-16% (Art. VI). The PA also succeeded in gaining Israeli endorsement of a monthly transferring [to itself] the income taxes deducted by Israel from the pay-checks of those Palestinian labourers employed inside Israeli territories (Art. VII). No less than 75% of this tax was agreed to be transferred to the PA (Art. V.4). According to some estimates the PA, by virtue of these regulations, gained approximately 360-420 million USD in direct tax and VAT, and an annual 180 million USD in tax deductions. Still, while the first two channels (direct tax and VAT) were under the PA’s full control, the transfer to the PA of income tax deducted by Israel from Palestinian labourers remained subject to Israeli good will, the political atmosphere, and in particular any advances in the peace process.

PA financial gains from direct and indirect taxation came at the expense of its ability to control the flow of fresh Israeli agricultural and industrial products into its territories. Art. VIII. 10 stimulated unrestricted flow of fresh agricultural products between the PA’s territories and Israel; this, of course, placed Palestinian farmers at a disadvantage, as Israeli farmers enjoyed the subsidies and support of their government while Palestinian farmers were denied these by the PA’s financial weakness. Moreover, the unrestricted flow of agricultural products between the PA’s territories and Israel was not applied to those products that allowed Palestinian farmers a comparative advantage in terms of their production (e.g., potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes). The PA was not permitted to export more than the annual quantities of said products specified by the protocol (at least the case during the period of 1994-1998).


Art.VIII.10 was accompanied by article IX, which provided for the unrestricted flow of Israeli industrial products into the PA’s territories. This article further institutionalized the economic relations between the Israel and the territories to favour Israel’s priorities and needs; it denied the low-capital and small-scale Palestinian industrial sector any competitive power within its relationship with the highly developed, sophisticated, and subsidized Israeli industrial sector.

The protocol regarding economic relations, therefore, further institutionalized the asymmetrical economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinian territories that had prevailed since the Israeli occupation of the WBGS in 1967. The economic parameters of this protocol, plus the PA’s lack of control over key resources in the occupied territories (including water), forced the PA to turn to the international community for assistance for its development efforts. The PA had significant hopes that the international community would develop Palestinian autonomous areas. In July 1994 Arafat told a news conference in Cairo that “the Israeli colonization destroyed the Palestinian infrastructure. We have to start from scratch in everything and this is the responsibility of the international community.”

Arafat’s words sought to remind the international community of its pledges and promises to assist the process of state-building in the WBGS, made at the first donors’ conference in support of Middle East peace that took place in Washington DC in October 1993. Approximately 50 delegations represented 50 states and international organizations, attended the conference and committed some 2.3 billion USD to assist Palestinians in the development and reconstruction of their territories during the period of 1993-1998. By December 1998, the PA had received some 2.1 billion USD; of this, approximately 525 million was received in 1994. Nearly 10.5% of the funds received in 1994 was allocated to building PA security forces, and another 6% to building PA institutions (including bureaucratic ones, of course), compared to the 10.2% allocated to education, 5% to the health sector, 0.75% to agriculture, 0.13% to transportation, 0.68% to human rights, 2% to democratic development, and 1.71% to private sector development. The remaining funds were allocated to support concerns like women's issues, housing, environment, and so forth. No funds whatsoever were allocated to the legal and industrial sectors.


The donors’ main concern was over the success of the Oslo process and, accordingly, they emphasised the import of a stability achieved only through a strong central authority. Hence they also placed greater emphasis on developing the PA’s capacity at the expense of other sectors like civil society and the economic sectors (agricultural and industrial). By strengthening PA capacity and ignoring these other important sectors, donors accelerated the emergence of a centralized rule in the WBGS. This situated the PA in direct confrontation with the wishes and hopes of the WBGS population and its priorities of democracy and improved economic conditions. In a poll conducted by the Centre of Palestine for Research and Studies (CPRS) in Nablus in November 1993, 74% of WBGS Palestinians supported the establishment of a democratic system based on free elections, separation of powers, accountability and transparency. The poll also revealed 72% of Palestinians supported the right of the opposition to exist and freely express its opinions.

The opposition was yet another dilemma facing the PA. On 5 January 1994, ten Palestinian Islamic and secular factions — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and the DFLP — set up the so-called “Palestinian Forces Alliance” as an opposition front to counterbalance the DOP and the peace process; these factions then made a “declaration of the alliance’s political task”. Justifiably, they pointed out that Oslo process did not provide for a total Israeli withdrawal from the WBGS, and that it maintained the right of Israel to control the majority of WBGS territories. Ultimately, this arrangement denied the Palestinian right to a state and independence.

More importantly, they asserted that by deferring essential, conflicted issues (e.g., Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and borders) to third-status negotiations, Israel would have the time needed to establish its facts on the ground — thereby making it very difficult for any Palestinian state to be formed. Against this background, the factions declared their commitment to the PLO charter and to national struggle, as well as their commitment to Jihad (the war in the path of God) as a means of liberating Palestine.


Despite such declarations, the opposition front quickly collapsed after its members could not agree on how exactly to pursue an opposition policy. While secular factions preferred a peaceful method, Islamic opposition — mainly Hamas — preferred all out war with Israel and its peace process. Toward the latter's ends, on April 6, 1994 (a few weeks prior to the PA’s arrival in Gaza), in Afulla a Hamas car bomb was detonated by Ra’id Abdullah Zakarna (a 25 year old from Kabatyia, near Jenin) next to Israeli bus no. 340, killing seven Israelis and wounding 52 others. Hamas claimed that the attack avenged the killings of 29 Palestinians by an Israeli extremist, who had acted against Muslim worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs (in Hebron) on 25 February 1994. Hamas also warned there would be further actions taken against Israeli targets.

When the PA arrived in May, Israel perceived its main duties as being to maintain Israeli security and to stop further attacks by Hamas. According to Ron Pundik who — in association with Yair Hirschfield — worked the Oslo backchannel, “...the declaration of principles was not signed out of a sudden love for Palestinians, or out of a sudden understanding of the Palestinian political demands, but rather out of a belief that the process will provide more security and better quality of life...” This was and still is the Israeli interpretation of article XV of Oslo II. The article cites that both sides are to “take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism”.

This article was further elaborated to place responsibilities on Palestinian security forces to “act systematically against all expressions of violence and terror” and to “arrest and prosecute individuals who are suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror” as well as to cooperate with the Israeli security forces “in the exchange of information and coordination of policies and activities”. Furthermore, Palestinian security forces were asked to protect all citizens (including Israeli citizens) in the areas of the PA’s jurisdiction, and “…to prevent and deal with any attempt to cause damage or harm to infrastructure serving the other side…”(Article II of Annex I of Oslo II).


The main problem with the aforementioned articles is their absence of any clarity regarding the terms of how to combat violence and terror were concerned. While Israel insists that the terms imply unconditional security for Israelis, including Israeli soldiers who remain installed around Jewish settlements in the WBGS (in addition to Israeli civilians inside Israeli territories), the PA insists that the terms imply conditional security connected to advancement within the peace process. Furthermore, Israel had to fulfil her commitments to the Oslo accords; in particular she had to halt her settlement activities in the WBGS. As long as Israel failed to meet her own commitments, the PA continued, Palestinians would retain the right to fight the occupation of their land. Nothing could prejudice this right, as it had already been secured by international law.

The crisis of the PA in this respect derived from the logic of the entire Oslo process. Since the initiation of the peace conference in Madrid in 1991, Israel’s main concern was not to hang any peace settlement with the Palestinians on terms of international legality. But the Palestinian insistence on international legality during those negotiations meant the Madrid conference and the following Washington talks would be unproductive. A shift in the Palestinian position occurred when the PLO engaged with the Oslo backchannel, and signed the Oslo accords. By so doing, the PLO accepted the Israeli logic of peace, which rested on the existing balance of power; after this, the PA was left at the mercy of the Israeli interpretation not only of peace, but of security as well.

The Israeli interpretation of security was broader than the PA expected. It was not confined to asking that future attacks on Israeli targets be stopped, nor to the need to “arrest and prosecute individuals who are suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror”, but rather extended to include a crack down on Hamas and other opposition factions. This view was clearly expressed by Yitzhak Rabin when he declared that through the Oslo process the “PA would be able to repress the Palestinians without appeals to the Supreme Court and without human rights organizations”. Rabin’s view implied inter-Palestinian violence, a condition considered to be taboo by both the PA and the opposition factions (including Hamas). Dr. Mahmoud El Zahar, Hamas’ Gaza spokesman, revealed Hamas’ expressed an awareness of the above Israeli plans when he described those in the PA as “brothers...neighbours, ...cousins...we understand what it means, to implement this accord with Israel...we are wise enough not to play the Israeli game”.


Yet, while in Hamas' point of view not playing Israel's game meant not being involved in armed confrontation with the PA under any circumstances, it did not imply a stop to attacks on Israeli targets, nor did it imply Hamas' submission to the PA as an ultimate source of coercion. Abu Mohammad Mustafa, Damascus representative of Hamas, pointed out that Hamas “totally reject the disarming of Palestinian people because occupation is still continuing in our land...”

The words of Mustafa point to the main crisis suffered by the PA. When the PLO signed the Oslo Accords, the PLO/PA committed itself to denouncing armed struggle as means of liberation, and also promised to fight all forms of “terror” which might spoil the peace prospects in the region. This commitment, which placed huge responsibilities on the PA, was not met with equal Israeli commitment to ending the occupation of WBGS — e.g., to stopping settlement activities and collective punitive measures like the Israeli policy of closure. Accordingly, the essential features of the old political order (the Israeli occupation of WBGS, so to speak) remained visible and subject to further Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The PA exerted a great deal of effort to accelerate the disappearance of these features; their presence placed the PA under great pressure from opposition factions — particularly Hamas, which used the structural deficits of the peace accords to justify its military operation against Israeli targets inside WBGS and Israeli territories.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: the PA’s Search for Legitimacy

Hamas' military operations were to place the PA under continuous Israeli pressure, and seriously threatened it’s political future; this was particularly the case given the PA's inability to create structural changes with respect to the economic situation of the majority of Palestinians as a result of it dependence on another partner (Israel) hostile to any vision of effective social, economic, and political liberation for Palestinians living in the occupied territories. This situation in turn subjected the PA to further pressure from its local community.


Fully aware of this, on his arrival in July 1994 Arafat made his first speech on Palestinian soil and sought to recruit wider support for the Oslo Accords by appealing to his people “to be united as one build...homeland as free men, a homeland of democracy, freedom and equality.” Statehood, in Arafat's opinion, would be difficult to attain without containing his opponents (mainly constituted by Hamas), who considered his visit to Gaza “...shameful and humiliating, as it occurs in the shadow of occupation and in the shadow of Arafat’s humiliating submission before the enemy government...” Accordingly, in an address to Ahmad Yassin — the Hamas leader who had been jailed by Israel since 1989 — Arafat vowed “not to rest or be silent until you are (Yassin) with us by our side, here, here, here...”

Arafat’s accommodation of his opponents expressed one part of his future policy toward them; Barry Rubin concluded that Arafat pursued a mix of both accommodative and oppressive policies in this respect. Though he enabled his opponents to maintain their social institutions/military infrastructure, and opened channels of dialogue with them, he also exhibited a readiness to combat any possible rebellion against himself (ostensibly, by said opponents). Toward this end, from Tunisia he issued decision no. 14 on 27 August 1994. The decision empowered Arafat with the right to ratify the security forces’ payroll, and the right to decide on the appointments of top-position militants (e.g., colonels, brigadiers, etc).

Having enjoyed this power, he appointed his most loyal militants to head various PA security branches and set himself as chief commander of these forces. Colonel Nasser Yousef — one of said exiled PLO militants — was appointed Commander of the National Security Forces before being replaced by Sae’b AL-A’jz. Amin El Hindi, a Fatah-affiliated militant originally from the Gaza Strip, was said to have disappeared between the early 1970s and the 1990s — a period during which he appears to have served as Commander of General intelligence. Musa Arafat, said to have family connections with Arafat, was appointed as the head of military intelligence. Faisal Abu Sharekh was appointed as the head of the presidential security forces. Ghazi El Jabali, very well known thanks to his loyalty to Arafat, was appointed as the head of the civil police.


Playing the above Generals off each other, and consequently discouraging the emergence of any homogenous command that might challenge his own power, Arafat also introduced a number of insiders to head certain security branches. Colonel Muhammad Dahaln, originally from Khan Younis (the southern Gaza Strip) and in the 1980s the leader of the pro-Fatah youth movement Al Shabiba, headed the Gaza branch of preventive security forces. Dahaln headed preventive security in Gaza, Jibril Al Rajub — a Fatah activist in 1970s arrested by Israeli forces — was released and eventually took command of the West Bank preventive security forces.

Notwithstanding their different geographical and cultural orientations, this clique of generals retained loyalty to Arafat in order to protect the peace process and to abrogate any attempt to destroy their regime. For these generals, with Arafat behind them, acting against the peace process seemed a most intolerable act; it was this process upon which the legitimacy of their regime rested, and consequently any attempt to spoil the process was considered an attempt to abrogate their own political legitimacy.

When Hamas’s military wing the Izz al-Din Qassam brigades kidnapped the Israeli solider Nahshon Wachsman on 11 October 1994, the Palestinian generals considered this act to be in defiance against their own regime and did not hesitate to assist Israeli forces in locating Wachsman. Although the crisis ended on 14 October with Wachsman's death, after an aborted Israeli rescue attempt, it escalated tensions between Hamas and the PA. On 19 October Hamas, angry at the PA's participation in the crisis, staged another attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, killing 21 Israelis and injuring dozens of others. The PA, determined to keep peace process alive, launched an arrest campaign against Hamas supporters and detained approximately 200 of them.


Islamic Jihad supporters were also targeted by the PA arrest campaigns; no less than 150 of them were arrested on 11November 1994 after an Islamic Jihad member blew himself up and killed three Israeli soldiers who had been installed on the main road between Rafah (south of the Gaza Strip) and Gaza city. The tension between the PA and the Islamic opposition (primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad) reached its peak when Hamas organized a demonstration outside Gaza’s Palestinian mosque on 18 November 1994 to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners from the PA’s jails. According to Human Right Watch, the demonstration turned into a violent clash between PA security forces and Islamic militia, leaving 14 Palestinians killed and hundreds of others wounded.

In his analysis of the unprecedented inter-Palestinian bloodshed, PLC member Ziad Abu Amr points out that the events “...suggested that Arafat had act against Hamas because.... Israelis were pressuring him to act or risk a suspension of expanding the autonomous rule to other areas of the West Bank.” Although Abu Amr's analysis implies a decrease in Arafat's popularity among Palestinians, given the latter’s support for a democratic system and rule of law, the events’ aftermath indicated the opposite. A June 1995 poll stated that 60.9% of Palestinians believed Arafat to be the symbol of Palestinian nationhood, and 46.6% of Palestinians supported Arafat’s party (Fatah) vs. the 18.2% that supported Hamas and 0.1-4.4% that supported other factions (like the PFLP, the DFLP, and Islamic Jihad). This wide popular support for Arafat and his party enabled him to proceed with his current policy, and to conclude Oslo II with Israeli government.

The Oslo II, formally known as the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and signed in Washington on 28 September 1995, divided the West Bankinto three classifications: Category A covers the areas over which the PA would have full control (e.g., administrative and security responsibilities); Category B, covers the areas over which the PA would have partial control (e.g., complete administrative responsibilities and partial security responsibilities, with Israeli forces being allowed to enter freely into these areas); and finally Category C covers the areas over which the PA would assume neither administrative nor security responsibilities. Category C covered Jewish settlements and the bypass roads surrounding them. (Article XI).


Moreover, a two phase of Israeli redeployment was agreed upon. The first phase included Israeli redeployment from the major cities of the West Bank (excepting Hebron, which enjoyed special privileges within the agreement and was scheduled to be redeployed by March 1996 by virtue of Art. VII of AnnexI). These cities included: Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, and Jenin. The PA was to have full administrative and security responsibilities in these cities (e.g., they fell into Category A). Also within the context of the first phase of Israeli redeployment, Israel agreed to transfer about 450 villages and towns from Category C to Category B.

The implementation of the first phase of the redeployment implied an extension of full PA control over 2% of West Bank territories, in addition to an extension of PA partial control over 26% of West Bank territories. The second phase of Israeli redeployment included redeployment from the remaining territories of West Bank (with exceptions made regarding final status issues) according to an 18-month timetable (Art. I of Annex I). Appendix 1 of Annex I of the agreement provided for the completion of the first phase of Israeli redeployment in December 1995.

The conclusion of Oslo II marked a new phase in the peace process. Dissatisfied with the agreement, Jewish extremist Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minster Ytizhak Rabin on 4 November 1995 as Rabin was leaving a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Asked why he committed this act, Amir responded, “Rabin wanted to give our country to Arabs”. This event, combined with Hamas' suicide bombings, revealed that the peace process had failed to change the deeply rooted hostilities that infested the Palestinians-Israeli relationship.


This was not the case, however, with the relationship between Israeli and Palestinian politicians. In his comments on Rabin assassination, Arafat considered the event as “awful...where I lost one of the most important, courageous men in Israel.” Shimon Peres, by then acting Israeli Prime Minister, vowed during Rabin's funeral “not to hesitate for peace” and to implement those measures that had been agreed upon. In December Peres brought the first phase of the Israeli two-phase redeployment provided by Oslo II into force, and enabled the PA to extend its full/partial control over 28% of the West Bank territories.

The extension of PA rule over further territories in the West Bank recruited further Palestinian support for the peace process and Arafat’s policy. At least 70,000 Palestinians welcomed Arafat’s arrival to Nablus,282 and a further 50,000 Palestinians welcomed his arrival to Qalqilya following the Israeli redeployment from the city. In response, some 25,000 Hamas supporters met at a Gaza Rally on 16 December 1995 and condemned Oslo II, vowing to “make the land of Palestine a graveyard for the children of Zion”. Toward this end, Hamas suicide bombers committed two attacks on 25 February 1996, which left 25 Israelis killed, and 80 others injured. Hamas claimed that the attacks avenged the January 1996 assassination of Yahiya Ayyash (a Bir Zeit University student considered to be an innovator of suicide bombings).

The two Hamas operations occurred just a few months prior to the Israeli May elections. The candidates nominated for Israeli premiership were acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres of the Labour party, considered the architect of peace with the Palestinians, and the Likud hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu who was known mostly through his tough policy toward peace with Palestinians. Netanyahu's hard line was expressed by Likud Party member Uzi Landu on the eve of the election: “we’ll have to put much more emphasise on our security”... “If we really want peace: no Palestinian state here”. In Israeli public opinion, Hamas’ operations only strengthened the case for taking such a tough line toward the Palestinian state. Hence Netanyahu rose to power in May 1996.


The rise of Netanyahu to power was accompanied by a growing influence of radical religious parties, which held 24 parliamentary seats after the election, increased from the 16 seats they had occupied in the pre-election era. In addition, the secular radical party Israel for Immigration won 7 seats, and the Third Way party won 4 seats. All of this further supported the government's hard-line, but created a situation in which Netanyahu (whose party had taken 34 of the 120 seats in Israeli parliament) had to accept the conditions of these parties in order to successfully form his government. Fully aware of this fact, Netanyahu exhibited an unwillingness to honour the pledges of the former Israeli government and vowed in his victory speech not to negotiate over East Jerusalem, nor to redeploy from further territories unless the security of all Israelis was guaranteed.

Netanyahu’s statement exhibited two aspects: on the one hand it showed concern for his political future as Israel’s prime minister, and on the other demonstrated the Likud party’s position with regards to the peace process. For the Likud party the Oslo process implied, in its final stage, Palestinian self-rule over some Palestinian territories that are geographically unconnected and moreover surrounded by Jewish settlements under Israeli sovereignty. According to the Likud agenda East Jerusalem not up for negotiations under any circumstance, the subject constituting taboo. For Palestinians, the Oslo process or self-rule arrangements were to be the first stage toward a fully independent Palestinian state (WBGS), with the capital as East Jerusalem. Arafat stated this view very clearly in his comments on the Israeli elections and Netanyahu's security agenda:


“It is more than naive self-delusion to claim that Israel is capable of achieving peace without a full withdrawal from Palestinian and Arab territory, and without recognizing the right of the Palestinians to return to self-determination and establish an independent state with its capital in Jerusalem”.

Arafat's words seemed to have little impact on Netanyahu who, after forming his government in June, decided to resume building at the controversial Har Homa, called Jabal (mountain) Abu Ghuneim by Palestinians. The issue of Jabal Abu Ghuneim stems from Israel’s Minister of Finance Isaac Moda’ee's 1991 order that at least 6,500 housing units be constructed on this mountain to settle forty thousands Jewish settlers. Palestinian opposition to the project, backed by a veto from Israel’s judiciary, deferred its implementation. With Netanyahu’s assumption of power, the Israeli Supreme Court removed the legal restrictions regarding building on this mountain, and the government was given the green light to go ahead.

Consequently, Netanyahu ordered the construction of a bypass road to connect the proposed Har Homa settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim with the settlement of Gilo, south of East Jerusalem. The settlement building in Jabal Abu Ghneim, located no less than 2 km north of Bethlehem and sized at 2 squared km, was to complete the suffocation of the city, which was already surrounded by the Etzion settlement bloc in the South, Bitar Ilite in the West, and Taqoa in the East. Furthermore, the by-pass road between Hara Homa settlement and Gilo settlement would create physical barriers between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and thus deny Bethlehmites access to East Jerusalem.


From a Palestinian point of view, settlement in Har Homa was a grave violation of the Oslo accords, which committed both sides not “ take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations” (Art.XXXI.7 of Oslo II). Consequently, the Palestinians blamed Netanyahu for failing to honour the accords and called on him to stop building in Har Homa. Netanyahu, on the other hand, considered Jewish settlement in Har Homa a natural right for Jews not prejudiced by any agreement, and called Palestinians to account for failing to do their utmost to thwart the Hamas and Islamic Jihad networks. Indeed, Netanyahu went even further and called on the PA to denounce the PLO’s charter naming Israel’s destruction as a pre-condition for any further Israeli redeployment from the West Bank. The PA considered Netanyahu's demands unreasonable, since the PA’s involvement in the peace process with Israel already implied the PA’s denouncement of the PLO charter. Consequently, the PA interpreted the demand as another attempt by Netanyahu government to destroy the peace process.

As each side insisted on blaming the other for the failure to honor the agreements, mistrust intensified and clashes broke out on 24September 1996, leaving no less than 68 people killed, 54 Palestinians and 14 Israelis and hundreds of others injured according to a CNN report made on 28 September. These clashes broke out specifically in the aftermath of the Israeli decision to open a tourist tunnel near Al Aqsa Mosque. Palestinians perceived the decision as an Israeli attempt to tighten control over Jerusalem, which was, according to Arafat, “an escalation by the Israeli government against our people”. Netanyahu denied Arafat’s claim, asserting the “tunnel...does not harm to the holly places and ...expresses our sovereignty in Jerusalem”. Both sides therefore expressed unwillingness to end the crisis peacefully. However, as the clashes escalated to endanger the whole process of Oslo, both leaders responded to international and US demands to halt hostilities and resume peace talks. Accordingly, a USA-sponsored summit was convened in early October, and proclaimed the end of the crisis and the resumption of the peace talks.

This summit paved the way for both sides to conclude the Hebron Protocol on 15 January 1997. The protocol, elaborated in article VII of Annex I of Oslo II, enabled the PA to assume control over 80% of the Hebron city whilst simultaneously leaving Israel to control an enclave of 400 settlers and 20,000 Palestinians. With the conclusion of the Hebron Protocol, both sides showed interest in denouncing the violence and keeping the peace process alive, notwithstanding their conflicting perceptions of this process.


However, the process quickly entered another stalemate as result of Netanyahu’s policy, which turned its back on the former Israeli government pledges observed by Art.I of Annex I of Oslo II. These provided for Israeli redeployment from the remaining territories of the West Bank by no later than March 1997. Netanyahu's failure to fulfill the pledge of the former Israeli government was accompanied by an escalation of settlement building expressed by a 25% increase of the West Bank’s settlers and a 6% increase of Jerusalem’s settlers during the period of 1996-1999 (1999 being the year when Netanyahu left office), and the bulldozing of some 1,000 dunoms in the Gaza Strip for settlement purposes in the same period. Most notable was the resumption of settlement construction in Har Homa, following the March Hamas suicide bombings that left three Israelis dead and another forty-eight wounded.

Hamas' new suicide bombings put the PA on the defensive, and enabled Netanyahu to justify his settlement activities and to launch an offensive campaign against the PA aimed at displaying the it’s failures to denounce violence and fulfill its commitment to the peace agreements; “the Palestinian authority has not rescinded the Palestinian Charter calling for our destruction. It has not fought terrorism. It has not stopped the incitement against Israel...” Netanyahu’s argument followed that, because of this, the PA was no longer qualified to assume rule in further territories in West Bank. Under this justification, Netanyahu considered his government to be no longer bound by the former Israeli government’s pledges as stated in Oslo II.

Netanyahu’s campaign was not restricted to claiming the PA’s failure to fulfill it’s commitments in the political agreements, and also extended to assert the PA's failure to respect human rights and rule of law; “I think it is ghastly, monstrous to issue a law which says who sells land to Jews executed...this is...a racist law, a Nazi law”. Netanyahu was pointing to the announcement made by the PA’s Minister of Justice Freih Abu Medein on 6 May 1997, in which the death penalty was assigned to any one convicted by a Palestinian court of selling land to Israelis. The announcement was made after it had been discovered that about 70% of the land in the Har Homa project was purchased by Jews before 1948 or after 1967.


The PA, consequently, sought to defend Palestinian land. In the words of Arafat “our law is a Jordanian law that we inherited which applies to both the West Bank and Gaza, and sets the death penalty for those who sell land to Israelis. It is our right to defend our land”. On 30 May Mahmoud Ali Jambour, from Jerusalem but with an Israeli ID card, was found shot twice in the head in the south of Ramallah. Jambour was accused of selling a house in Jerusalem’s mixed Jewish-Palestinian Abu Tor neighborhood to a Jewish organization, and was the third Palestinian to be murdered in the same month for reportedly selling land to Israelis.

The murders of these Palestinians, which were attributed to PA security forces, made Arafat vulnerable to the criticisms of the Clinton administration, whose State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns considered these acts “...contrary to what must prevail in the Middle East, which is peace” and called upon Arafat “to stand up for the rule of law...and defend it in what he says and in what he does.” Ironically, no mention was made of the tens of Palestinians from the Islamic opposition and national factions who had been held in the PA’s various detention centers since 1994, mostly without charge or trial.302

These prisoners, detained in massive waves of arrests carried out in the aftermath of each suicide bombing, were subjected to various forms of torture during interrogation that included shackling, sleep deprivation, and Shabah (standing or be shackled to a chair). Mostly they were detained under Israeli and American pressure. The developments that followed the conclusion of the Wye-River Memorandum should confirm this fact.


The memorandum, signed in Washington on 23October 1998, provided for PA full/partial control over a further 13% of West Bank territories — 1% as area “A”, 9% as area “B”, and 3% as Natural reserves — and the transference of 14.2% from area “B” to area “A” (Art. I). However, the memorandum conditioned the PA’s assumption of control over these territories by making it necessary for the organisation to bring the level of violence to zero. Toward this end, the PA was obliged to develop an anti-terror work plan, to collect illegal weapons, to promulgate an anti-incitement decree, to exchange intelligence with Israel, and to amend the PLO charter that called for Israel’s destruction. To ensure the PA’s fulfilment of these obligations, two US-Palestinian committees were set up. One agreed to meet every two weeks “to review steps...taken to eliminate terrorist cells”, and the other was to review PA’s steps to punish terrorists (Art. II, A.1).

In addition, three trilateral US-Palestinian-Israeli committees were agreed upon. The first was to review steps taken by the PA to prevent the proliferation of illegal weapons in the Palestinian autonomous areas, while the second was to monitor incitement. The third committee, which agreed to meet every two weeks, was to exchange intelligence and identify terrorist threats (Art. II, A.2, 3, B.3). Moreover, the PA was obliged to call for a wide PNC meeting with the aim of amending the clauses of the PLO charter that called for Israel’s destruction (Art. II, C.2). It was agreed that President Clinton would address the PNC meeting. In addition, the memorandum called on both parties to resume the final status talks as soon as possible, so that an agreement over the final status issues could be concluded no later than 4 May 1999 (Art. IV).

Furthermore, the memorandum set a timetable of 12 weeks for its implementation according to three phases. The first phase was due to begin two weeks after the signing of the memorandum. In this phase, Israel would transfer 2% of land from area “C” to “B”, and 7.1% from “B” to “A”. In exchange, the PA would survey illegal weapons, develop an anti-violence work plan, and join the anti-incitement trilateral US-Palestinian-Israeli committees. The second phase was due to begin in weeks 2-6. In this phase, Israel would transfer 5% from areas “C” to “B”. In exchange, PA would collect the identified illegal weapons, amend the PLO charter that called for Israel's destruction, and provide Israel with a list of its policemen. The third stage was set to occur in weeks 6-12. In this phase, Israel would transfer 5% from area “C” to “B”, and 1% from “C” to “A”, and 7.1% from “B” to “A” (see attached memorandum).


The memorandum heavily emphasized security cooperation and, under full American sponsorship, left wide scope for human rights and public freedom violations to occur under the auspices of fighting terror. The fact that terms like “terror combat” and “violence” were left ill defined by the memorandum meant conflicting interpretations of these terms would be possible, if not inevitable. Consequently, it became unclear whether acts of national struggle, which are legitimate under International law, would be included in the term “terror” as it was used in the memorandum or whether the term “terror” was confined only to “suicide bombings”. Furthermore, would the term “terror” include suicide bombings against Israeli military targets, or would it only cover those carried out against Israeli civil targets? What would be the case, for instance, if a Palestinian committed a suicide bombing against an Israeli military outpost in WBGS?

Sa’eb Erekat denied that the memorandum implied any restrictions over the opposition activities, and also denied that it implied any obligation on the part of the PA to outlaw Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Muhammad Dahaln, who headed the Preventive Security Forces in Gaza, went even further and denied that the term “terror combat” obliged the PA to alter their intelligence as far as Hamas and Islamic Jihad were concerned, stating rather that it obliged the PA to alter its intelligence with respect to the number and positions of PA security forces: “we have no problem providing one list of policemen and another list of policemen who do administrative work and are unarmed.”

The Israeli perception of the memorandum, as expressed by Netanyahu, was certainly differed from that of the Palestinians; Israelis considered it a means to “block ...many of the holes in the `Swiss cheese` of Oslo”. For Israelis, therefore, the memorandum was to serve as an instrument to achieve 100% security, and would treat the deficits in Oslo II (from Israeli point of view) that enabled Palestinian opposition factions to keep their military infrastructure and thereby enabled them to launch some 463 attacks on Israeli targets in 1997 alone (according to Ami Ayalon, the head of Israel’s Security Services).


Consequently the PA, from an Israeli point of view, was obliged to stop any further attacks on Israeli targets (militant and civil) and to establish 100% security for Israelis. Of course neither the PA nor any state in world could achieve 100% security. It seems most unlikely that Israel was not fully aware of this fact, and therefore also seems that Israel sought to drive Palestinians to civil war (particularly in light of the Israelis full awareness of the absence of a Palestinian national-wide consensus regarding the Oslo process in general, and the memorandum in particular).

For instance, in response to the memorandum, Hamas’s leader Ahmad Yassin declared his movement’s determination to keep launching attacks at Israeli targets, notwithstanding the possible obstacles that might be set for the movements’ activities by the memorandum. Nayef Hawatmeh, the Secretary General of DFLP, warned of the negative repercussions of the memorandum on inter-Palestinian relations, while the Secretary General of PFLP George Habbash considered it a plan to keep Israel’s security. These Palestinian factions continued to believe in the right of Palestinians to combat the remaining parts of the occupation in WBGS, and some of them, particularly Hamas, considered every Israeli a target regardless of their status (e.g., armed forces or civil). Every Israeli, according to Hamas, was a potential soldier who could come one day to WBGS and kill Palestinians. Due to all of this, Hamas considered itself not to be bound by any law or agreement as long as Israeli occupation remained on WBGS.

On 29 October 1998 a suicide bomber blew himself up on Israeli bus occupied by Jewish settlers travelling south of Gaza City. The attack left one Israeli dead and others injured. Arafat, concerned Netanyahu might refrain from meeting his commitments to the memorandum, condemned the attack and expressed suspicions over its goals; “the attack serves the goals of Israeli extremists who kill our people and stand opponents to our right to get our land back”. In a step which sought to exhibit the PA’s full determination to fulfil its commitments as stated in the memorandum, Arafat ordered his security forces to impose house arrest on Hamas leader Yassin, and to arrest no less than 160 Hamas leaders, supporters and other Islamic activists. The wave of arrests jailed at least twelve top Hamas leaders and opposition activists.


Some of these detainees, who were denied legal defence, were tried before the State Security Court and were primarily sentenced for long-terms. As an example of such practice, on 19 January 1998 two Hamas members Nassim Abu al-Ras and Jasser Samaru were sentenced by the State Security Court in Jericho to 15 years of hard labour for their involvement in the preparation of various suicide bombings against Israeli targets. Human rights lawyer Moussa Shakarm denounced the trial and the sentence, declaring them serious violations of human rights.

Shakarma's comments to the court reflected his deep awareness of the unfair trial. The court had been founded on 16 February 1995, when Arafat issued his decision number 49 concerning the establishment of the State Security Court. The court typically functioned in a manner that contradicted the criteria of fair trial and legal procedure, including the right to appeal and the right to legal representation. Trials in these courts usually occurred at night and their sentences, mostly long-term or in some cases death sentences, were passed and executed immediately; its mandate was to handle cases involving national security.

The structure and the legal bases of the Palestinians State Security Court seemed to serve this purpose. At the head of the court stood Brigadier Abdel El Fatah Ramadan Al Ja’idi, and additional members were Colonels Hamdi El Rifi and Muhammad Karamah Issa, and the Judge Abdel Karim Musa Salman El Masri. To handle the related national security cases the court invoked the British Emergency Regulations of 1945, which were also invoked by Israel to oppress Palestinians throughout year 28 of its occupation of WBGS.

The Detachment of the PA from Society: The PA against Civil Society


The detention of opposition members, coupled with the establishment of the State Security Courts, was a clear indicator of the PA’s acquiescence to Israeli interpretations of incitement and terror and the PA’s gradual detachment from Palestinian society and its investments in the peace process as the source of its legitimacy. This fact was evident in the measures taken by the PA against civil society.

Though civil society is among the most confusing of social terms, Gramsci’s conception of it might be the most constructed. In Gramsci’s perception, civil society is the sphere of social activities located outside the spheres of coercive relations (state) and production relations (economy).314 In this sense civil society comprises NGOs, professional associations, women's organizations, religious institutions, political parties, and other similar group-based social activities. Our understanding of the term includes the sphere of social activities that neither seeks political power nor economic profit. In this sense, political parties are excluded from civil society, and the term civil society is confined to NGOs, intellectuals, journalists, and professional associations. This sphere of social activities was the subject of various PA attempts to abrogate its developments and harass its leaders. The State Security Court, for instance, was used not only to try and stop the opposition from infringing on national security, but also to obstruct NGO representatives as well as intellectuals who stood in opposition to PA policies.

On 18 May 1996 Dr. Iyad Saraj, a human rights activist and head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, was arrested for having written an article (published in the New York Times) that criticised the PA. Dr. Saraj, who was detained for a week before being released, was arrested again on 10June under the charge of “drugs’ possession”, before the Magistrates court ordered his release on bail on 13June due to lack of evidence. However, without prior notification given to him or to his legal representation, the State Security Court decided to keep him under arrest until 26June, when he was finally released. Mohammed Dahman, a prominent public figure in Gaza and head of the Addameer Prisoner Support Association, was arrested on 12August 1996 for having issued a press release condemning the death of a Palestinian in a PA detention centre on 27July 1996. On 15August he was brought before the State Security Court and his detention was extended until 27 August, when he too was released.


In a similar case Fathi Soboh, a Gaza Professor of Education at Al-Zahar University, was arrested on 2July 1997 by Preventive Security Forces for assigning examination questions that asked the students to analyze the corruption of and within PA institutions. The detention of El Saraj, Dahman, and Soboh, all of whom were brought before the State Security Court, reflected a wider policy of the PA which sought to restrict public freedoms and basic rights.

This policy had been legally initiated when Ghazi El Jabali, head of Civil Police, declared (on 9 September 1994) a military order prohibiting those political meetings that took place without a permit obtained in advance from him. The policy was consolidated when Arafat ratified the “Law of Press” on 25June 1995. The law, which comprised 51 articles, covered all aspects of publication, beginning with the definition of freedom of expression, continuing through to regulations pertaining to license issuance for any publication, and ending by stating sanctions to be imposed on persons who violated the law.

Of greatest concern are articles VII and VIII of the law. The former prohibited, among other things, the publication of materials that contradict principles of freedom, national security, human rights, and respect of truth; “It is inadmissible to publish in the printed publication any materials which may contradict with the principle of freedom, national responsibilities, human rights, and respect of truth”. The later article included a code of conduct for journalists; “to refrain from publishing whatever may instigate violence, fanaticism, and hatred, or invites racism and sectarianism”.


The chief problem of these articles is their lack of any clarification regarding the term national responsibilities. The vague nature of the terms enabled the PA to enjoy a great deal of space in which to maneuver, and consequently allowed it — under the auspices of preserving national security — to commit grave violations against people's basic rights, including their right to freedom of expression. The PA, backed by the continued presence of the Israeli occupation in a large part of WBGS territories, was able to justify its practices with a preoccupation with the national agenda and the battle to liberate the remaining territories of WBGS. Thereby it could attack those who called for democratic transformation and accuse them of lack of patriotism.

“Struggle against enemy” was thus the chief slogan used by the PA to justify its anti-democratic practices. This slogan, typical of a one-party system (as Samuel P. Huntington observes), was the blanket used to stifle some Palestinians, e.g., blocking the opposition members’ access to politics. The PA, which entrusted itself with the right to decide what legitimate or illegitimate political action was, considered itself as having the ultimate power to decide who should be included and excluded from politics. Those who were included were the ones who supported the peace process upon which the PA legitimacy relied.

This policy of inclusion/exclusion also covered issues related to freedom of expression. Opinions supporting the PA were strongly encouraged, while those opposing it were discouraged, if not prohibited. Usually such discouragement or prohibition was legally institutionalized through various laws and regulations, such as the press law mentioned above. The law, for instance, presented the PA with the pretext to detain and summon some 70 journalists, and to close or ban publishing some 15 licensed newspapers or press offices in the period of 1995-1998, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.


In most of these cases, journalists with a background of publishing articles that criticized the PA were routinely subjected to interrogation, and some were tried by the State Security Court. Among the most notable of these cases was that of Sayyed Salem Abu Musameh, editor of the pro-Hamas periodical Al Watan (homeland); Sayyed Salem Abu Musameh was brought before the State Security Court on 13 April 1995 and sentenced to two years on charges of incitement. On 9July Ala’ Mashharawi, a Journalist for the El Quds daily, was arrested for ten days for having published a report critiquing the torture measures adopted by Palestinian security forces against Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners. On February 17 1996 Ala’ Saftawi, chief editor of the pro-Islamic Jihad periodical Al Istiqlal, was arrested by Palestinian security forces for publishing an article criticizing Arafat's rule.322

These measures made journalists' jobs considerably more difficult, and left them terribly exposed to PA sensitivities and reactions toward what they wrote. Preoccupied with possible harassment from the PA, and at the same time unaware of what the PA liked or disliked, journalists began to self-censor at the expense of innovation, thinking, and genuine analysis. According to a West Bank journalist who had been arrested and interrogated on the background behind his press activities:


“There are ‘red lines’ that no one is supposed to cross. What I understand from these red lines is that they are elastic. Their understanding (PA security forces) is mysterious. I do not understand what is forbidden and what is allowed anymore. Every time I write or compose something, I start thinking whether I will be caught... Journalism and the life of Journalists become difficult and full of worries.”

The “red lines” hinted at by this journalist proliferated, and became more elastic with the conclusion of the Wye-River Memorandum, which committed the PA to prohibit all forms of incitement and violence. Under the umbrella of this memorandum, the PA not only managed to oppress the opposition opinions, it also managed to restrain those who were seeking to transmit opposition activists’ views over political events to the public (e.g., journalists). On the same day the memorandum was signed, 11 Palestinian and international Journalists were arrested by the Palestinian security forces as they tried to interview the Hamas leader Yassin about his reaction to the memorandum. Brigadier-General Abu Ahmd, from the police criminal investigation department, told the journalists that they “...would require permission to cover political or security issues”.

The PA’s harassment of journalists was further institutionalised by the issuance of the so-called Executive Regulations by the General Information Agency. By virtue of these regulations the agency, which was established as an independent body by virtue of presidential decision no. 41 in 1996, was empowered with the rights to issue licences for foreign and local correspondents and to regulate press activities in the PA autonomous areas. These regulations, said to be formed on presidential verbal directive, seemed to add new restrictions to those provided for by the 1995 press law, with the aim of achieving full control over the right to freedom of expression. Yasser Abed Rabbu, Minister of Information, criticized these regulations as “damaging to the reputation of the PA and transforming it into oppressive intelligence authority that restricts the movement of foreign correspondents”.


Thought it is not clear whether these regulations were brought into force or not, their issuance under presidential sponsorship reveals a formal and deliberate trend of intensifying restrictions over the freedom of expression. This trend was further consolidated by Arafat's promulgation of an “anti-incitement & violence” decree on 19November 1998. The decree, which aligned with those PA commitments stipulated by the Wye-River Memorandum, is considered to be the most prominent legal expression of the PA’s caving to Israeli and American pressure, and of the PA willingness to risk its relationship with its own society for the sake of the peace process. Among other things, the decree designated the following acts as being illegal:

“Instigation towards racial discrimination and encouraging acts of violence that violate the laws; insulting various religions or using violence or instigation to use violence that harms the relations with brotherly and foreign countries; forming illegal associations that exercise or instigate towards crimes and abusing life and incite masses toward riot or internal conflict or breaching agreements held between PLO and brotherly or with foreign countries (Italics added).


A careful reading of the decree reveals many deficits as far as the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are concerned. To start with, there is no doubt that opinions of racial and religious discrimination should be prohibited, and that their institutional expression should be outlawed. The problem with this decree begins with the paragraph related to the “instigation to use violence that harms the relation with...foreign countries...and agreements held between PLO and... foreign countries”.It seems most unlikely that the paragraph addresses any country but Israel. Even if the paragraph meant foreign countries in general, this would still include Israel.

Consequently the question which vividly emerges is: are opinions that support acts of national struggle considered to be the instigation to violence mentioned in the decree, and thus are they outlawed? Or is the term ‘instigation to violence’ confined only to opinions supporting suicide bombings? And if the term is confined to suicide bombings does it include those suicide bombings carried out against Israel’s military targets? Furthermore, are the opinions of the opponents of the Oslo process and its power-balance logic a form of incitement or otherwise? In addition, what are the parameters of the political agreements held between the PLO and foreign countries? Are these agreements confined to the Oslo accords, or do they include all the agreements the PLO had signed with other foreign countries since its establishment in 1964?

All of these issues were left vague by the decree in a manner that left all options open to the PA to decide what measures to take toward society, according developments in the peace process and its own interests. The decree, for instance, was issued around the same time that Israel completed the first phase of its redeployments stipulated by the Wye-River Memorandum (on 20 November, Israel transferred 2% from area “C” to “B”, and 7.1% from “B” to “A”). But later on 1December, the Israeli Ministry of Housing declared a plan to build 450 housing units in the Kohaf Yakuf settlement, east of Ramallah. Arafat considered the plan a grave violation of the memorandum, and threatened a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state on 4 May 1999.


In response, the Israeli government threatened to annex WBGS and announced its cessation of the implementation of the second phase of redeployments scheduled for 18 December by the memorandum. Nabil Abu Rudinah, Arafat’s political advisor, denounced Israel’s threat to annex WBGS and considered it a “sign of Israel’s underestimation of the political agreements, and of the international and American efforts exerted to save the peace process”.

With this deadlock, the PA became willing to exhibit a more accommodative attitude toward society. On 23 December 1998, Arafat lifted the house arrest on Yassin and on 28 December he announced law no. 12 concerning peaceful assembly. The law, comprising nine articles, worked in parallel to democratic standards concerning the right to peaceful assembly. Article 4 of the law, for instance, denied the police any right to intervene in any peaceful demonstration, except to determine the track and time of this demonstration for traffic purposes. This article — backed by art. 3, which denied police any right to permit or prohibit any peaceful demonstration — is considered a qualitative step toward consolidating public freedoms and civil rights.

The removal of thehouse arrest on Yassin plus the law of peaceful assembly seemed gestures made not only against the deadlock of the peace process, but also against the civil society’s criticisms of the PA’s detention of tens of Palestinians who had set fire to American and Israeli flags to express opposition to the Joint American-British air-raids on Iraq on 16 December 1998. Alongside the detention of these Palestinians, three Palestinian Radio and Television stations (Al Nasser, El Wattan, and Love & Peace stations) were closed after being accused of broadcasting anti-American programmes.332 At that time, the PA considered these acts to be harmful to its relations with the American administration, relations that gained strong momentum in the aftermath of Clinton’s historical visit to Gaza on 14 December, at which time the American President addressed some 450 members of the PNC who had gathered at the Gaza-based Rashad El Shawa Cultural Centre to amend the PLO charter.


However, the civil society’s criticisms of the aforementioned measures forced the PA to adopt some accommodative laws and measures, like the law of peaceful assembly and the lifting of the house arrest on Yassin. Nevertheless, these laws and measures did not imply that the PA was yet responsive to public will, nor did they imply that it was willing to attach itself to society as the source of its legitimacy. The PA continued to consider the peace process to be the ultimate source of its legitimacy, and was prepared to risk its relation with society for the sake of this process.

The way the PA received the result of the Israeli election of May 1999, when the Labour-hawk Ihud Barak took office via a 13% victory over Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the measures that had been adopted toward society afterwards, substantiate our analysis. On the background of this election, the Palestinian leadership had refrained from the de jure declaration of a Palestinian state scheduled for May 1999, with the justification of a possible renewal of the peace process and as an attempt to not enable Netanyahu to use such a declaration in his election campaign.

When Ihud Barak took office — in spite of Baraks’ declaration that he did not intend to negotiate over Jerusalem, did not intend to dissolve the settlements in the West Bank, and would not respect the pre-1967 borders — the PA received the results of the Israeli election with an optimism based on the assumption that Barak’s declaration concerning Jerusalem, settlements, and borders, was no more than propaganda to increase his leverage in the final status talks. Hassan Asfour, by then the PA’s Minister of State, declared that the Barak victory “had removed a political nightmare represented by Netanyahu and his “`terrorist coalition´”. Sa’eb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, considered the Barak victory a new start for the peace process; “it is better to deal with a hard negotiator instead of dealing with non-negotiable one (Netanyahu)”.


The rise of Barak to power therefore from the PA’s point of view, gave the peace process a new momentum and hence a new impetus for its legitimacy. In such situations the PA tended to quickly attach itself to the peace process, and to be more oppressive toward its own society to prove to other side (Israel) it’s eligibility to rule Palestinians and so consequently to assume control over further territories. On 6 August 1999, accordingly, three top Hamas leaders Abdel Aziz Al Rantisi, Mohammad Namer Hamdan, and Ismail Abu Shanab were arrested by Palestinian security forces and detained without charge.

The arrest of these leaders occurred simultaneously with a wide-scale campaign against the civil society’s organizations, in particular against human rights organizations that opposed the PA’s illegal arrest campaigns. The campaign was initiated when, in early June, the PA set up a ministerial committee to report on Palestinian NGOs. The report was to serve as a foundation on which a future law concerning the NGOs would be drafted. Following the PA’s formation of the ministerial committee (whose report has not been made public until recently), the PA’s Minister of Justice Freih Abu Medein accused Palestinian NGOs of politicisation and financial mismanagement.

Abu Medien’s accusation came close on the heels of a report published by the Office of United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories in May 1999, in which no less than 100,725,612 USD was said to have been distributed by donors to the rule of law sector since 1994. The report pointed out fifteen separate sub-sectors, which make up the building blocks of the rule of law sector that had benefited from this aid. The sub-sector which benefited the most were the Palestinian NGOs, which received the highest portion (16.7%, or 16,864,421 USD), in comparison to 15% or (15,083,692 USD) to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), 14% to the Judiciary (14,101,585 USD), and 2.2% to the Ministry of Justice (2,217,580 USD). To some extent, the campaign was part of the PA’s attempts to monopolize aid distribution, and to deny NGOs — most of which had absorbed ex-members and supporters of leftist factions (e.g., the PFLP and the DFLP) — any financial autonomy.


Against this background, Khalil El-Zebin — who was Arafat’s advisor on the media and editor of the bi-monthly of Al-Nashrah magazine published by the Presidential Office — wrote an article in June 1999 accusing some human rights activists, including the Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Raji Sourani and the Director of the Law Institute Khadir Shikrat, of being paid hundreds of thousands of US dollars by Western powers in exchange of their “dirty role” of infringing on national security under the pretext of defending human rights and the rule of law. The PA's daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda made a similar accusation in the same month.

Human rights organizations, alongside other NGOs, considered the campaign part of that PA policy which sought to undermine their role in defending Palestinian human rights, to strengthen national unity, and support the steadfastness of Palestinians in their battle against the occupation. Therefore they called President Arafat to ratify a law on behalf of the NGOs as a means to secure their legal protection. The law, which constituted a major controversy between the PLC and NGOs on the one side, and the PA on the other, was passed in its third reading by the PLC in December 1998.

The third reading was passed by the PLC after Arafat refused to ratify the second reading of the law passed by the PLC in July of the same year. Arafat's refusal to ratify the second reading constituted a clear violation of the PLC’s Standing Order, which in article 68 provides thirty days for Arafat to ratify or comment on any law passed by the PLC in the second reading. In the case that these thirty days passed without statement from Arafat, the PLC was legally obliged to enact the law. The PLC refrained from such a step, and instead passed a third reading to Arafat for ratification.


Once again, Arafat refused to ratify the law within the due legal period and, more importantly, rejected article 4 of the law that empowered the Ministry of Justice to licence any NGO in the PA’s autonomous areas. Arafat demanded the Ministry of Interior be empowered with this right. Arafat’s demand was rejected by the PLC in its fifth session of the forth term on 22 May 1999. Instead, the PLC insisted the Ministry of Justice act as the point of reference for any NGO. The PLC's position enjoyed the support of Palestinian NGOs, for whom contribution to PLC’s version of the law was significant during the meeting held between NGOs representatives and members of the PLC’s political committee in Al-Bireh and Ramallah on 20 July 1998 (the meeting being held to discuss the first reading of the law).

Nevertheless, the debate over the law was settled when Ahmed Qrieh (better known as Abu Ala’) announced during a special session convened on 12August 1999 by the PLC to discuss the PA’s 1999 budget that the law would incorporate Arafat's comments regarding force. However Qrieh, by then the PLC’s Speaker, claimed that the voting on Arafat's comments which had taken place during the 22 May session was insufficient; only 37 members out of the 50 who attended that session had vetoed the comments, making the vote unsuccessful for lack of the necessary absolute majority (half of the 88 PLC members + 1) stipulated in article 71 of the PLC’s Standing Order.

While Qrieh’s claim was correct from a legal point of view, it was also correct in that there was in fact no absolute majority present to accept the comments of Arafat. The time and the manner in which Qrieh made his announcement reflected this fact. Kamal al-Shrafi, who headed the PLC’s Monitoring Committee, pointed out that Qrieh’s announcement occurred “while members were leaving the hall at the end of the one was paying attention”. Mawaia El Masri, a PLC member, confirmed al-Shrafi's observation by adding, that “…the law, including the comments of Arafat, had been approved without consulting PLC members”. In so doing, with the help of the PLC’s speaker the PA managed to impose it’s version of the law, and thus to place Palestinian NGOs under strict security supervision — in particular under Arafat's own supervision since Arafat, in addition to holding the PA’s chairmanship, held the post of Minister of Interior.


On 16 January 2000 Arafat ratified the law, and since April 2000 the law has been in force. Article (3) of the law asserts that the Ministry of Interior “will set up a competent department for the registration of the Associations and Organizations in coordination with the competent Ministry” (meaning that Ministry under the competence of which the activities of the NGO would fall). Article (4) added, “the founders of an Association or Organization submit a written application to the competent department for registration...the Minister of Interior had to issue his decision regarding the compliance of registration within a period not exceeding two months from the date of submission of the application...”

These developments revealed a deliberate PA policy to limit people’s collective action, and to undermine any independent bottom-up initiatives. This policy gained impetus with the conclusion of the Sharm- El -Sheikh Memorandum, which was signed on 4 September 1999. The memorandum set up a timetable of 4-5 months for the transference of a further 11% of West Bank territories to PA full/partial control, and provided for the extension of PA security jurisdictions over 7.1% of area “B”. Soon after the conclusion of this memorandum, which was the first of it kind for the Barak government, the PA began to exhibit a more oppressive attitude toward civil society. On 6 October 1999 Arafat decreed the establishment of the Ministry of NGOs’ Affairs. Article (1) of the decree stipulated that:


“The goal of the Ministry is to coordinate and organize the work between all Palestinian and foreign NGOs and governmental bodies based on transparency, participation, and complementary principles in planning, and implementing the overall national plan for the serve of Palestinian society”.

Article (2) added:


“To achieve its goals, the ministry is empowered to coordinate with the Ministry of Interior and other competent ministries with respects to NGOs licence and the follow up of their coordinate between NGOs and other governmental bodies and lay dawn the mechanisms to achieve this...”

The two articles left the distinction between the powers held by the Ministry of Interior and those held by the Ministry of NGOs’ Affairs unclear when it came to the licensing of any NGO. For instance, it was not clear at which stage the Ministry of NGOs’ Affairs would have a right to intervene in the licensing of an NGO. Would the Ministry have the power to abrogate the decision of the Ministry of Interior to permit or prohibit the establishment of any NGO?

Furthermore, how was the Ministry of NGOs’ Affairs going to follow up the work of Palestinian NGOs? And why in principle was such a ministry founded for this purpose, since the NGO law empowered the competent ministry with the right to follow up the work and activities of a given NGO (Art. 6), and obliges each Palestinian NGO to annually present to competent ministry its financial and activities reports (Art. 13)? These articles have already suggested the expansion of PA supervision of the work of any NGO. Consequently, it seems that the only motive to attach to the formation of the Ministry of NGOs’ Affairs was that of seeking further watch and control over Palestinian NGOs, and of limiting the prospects of any collective bottom-up initiative.

The PA Mode of Governance: Toward a Neopatrimonial System


The PA tendency to limit the prospects of any collective, bottom-up initiative is evident in the developments issuing from the “Statement of Twenty”. On 27 November 1999 a statement titled A Cry of the Homeland, undersigned by twenty Palestinian public figures out of which eight were PLC members, was released to the public. The statement blamed the PA for following “a systematic methodology of corruption, humiliation and abuse against the people”, and described the Oslo agreements as “a barter trade to enrich a number of corrupt people in the Palestinian Authority”. The statement constituted the greatest blow to PA, whose cabinet’s Secretary-General Ahmed Abdel El Rahman described the signatories as “a mislead group who failed to figure out the truth”. Following this, the PA adopted harsh measures against those who signed the statement. The PA’s security forces arrested Abdel El Sattar Qassim, a professor of political science at Al Najah University of Nablus, Dr.Yasser Abu Safiah from Nablus, Adel Samara, a professor of Economics in Ramallah, Dr. Abdel El Rahim Kittani from Tulkarm, and Ahmed Qatamesh, a national public figure and the man who had survived the longest Israeli administrative detention. Furthermore, house arrest was imposed on Bassam El Shaka, Nablus’s ex-mayor. None of the PLC members who signed the statement were arrested, thanks to their immunity.

On 28 November, however, Mawaia El Masri (a PLC member and one of the statement signatories) was shot three times in the foot by unidentified armed men. The incident occurred while El Masri was leaving Gaza, on his way back to Nablus after participating in an emergency session convened by the PLC; this session was called to condemn the statement, describing it as “attempt to drag Palestinians into civil war”. Quickly, Palestinians attributed the attack on El Masri to PA security forces and hundreds demonstrated in Nablus in support of El Masri and his colleagues. Reinforcing their accusations, Palestinians pointed to the PA forces’ attack on Abdel El Jawad Salah, a PLC member and also a signatory, who was beaten while he was marching with others before Jericho prison in protest against the detention of some of the other signatories.

These developments, and the supportive popular reaction on behalf of the signatories of the “Statement of Twenty”, revealed the growing popular awareness of corruption; an August 1999 poll showed that no less than 35.8% of Palestinians believed that corruption had widely spread throughout PA’s institutions and apparatus. Palestinians’ understanding of corruption did not imply unofficial payments to state officials in return for favours, or acts “to alter the prescribed implementation of administrative regulations placed by state”. Rather, their understanding focused on a misuse of power and the mismanagement of donors’ aid and other PA revenue by top politicians and senior officials of the PA.


In this sense, Palestinians were greatly alarmed by the 600-page report by the General Monitoring Commission (GMC) on corruption in the PA’s various institutions and apparatus issued in May of 1997. The report pointed out that some 323 million USD — almost 40% of the PA’s 1996 budget — had been misused or mismanaged by the PA’s politicians and senior officials. Jarrar Kidwa, head of the report compilers, asserted that part of this wasted funding went into the personal accounts of some ministers, without the knowledge of the Ministry of Finance. Among such ministers were Nabil Sha’ath, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, and acting Foreign Minister Jamil El Tarafi (also Minister of Civil Affairs), as well as the Minister of Transportation Ali El Qawasmi.

The importance of this report derived from the fact that it was the first of its kind in the Arab world to publicly raise its issue of corruption. Following, the Palestinian legislative council set up a parliamentary committee to launch its own investigation into the matter.

After two months spent hearing accounts from representatives of the concerned ministries and other PA’s apparatuses, the committee presented its own report to the PLC in July 1997. The information in the GMC report was confirmed, and President Arafat was called on to consider reshuffling his cabinet, and to try those ministers accused of misusing their power and financial mismanagement. These findings constituted an intolerable blow to PA ministers. Accordingly, in a gesture that sought to express opposition to the GMC and PLC reports, sixteen ministers announced their resignation in December 1997.


Unprepared to deal with the legal implications of these ministers’ resignations, Arafat disapproved the resignations and appealed to the ministers to assume their positions until changes to the cabinet were declared. In early August 1998 Arafat declared his new cabinet. Surprisingly, instead of removing those ministers suspected of corruption, the new cabinet secured positions for them and increased the total number of ministerial positions from 23 to 31. Of the new seven ministers added, the most notable were Sa’di El Krunz, who headed the PLC committee that investigated the corruption, and Youssef Abu Safiah, another member of the same committee.

Simply, Arafat assigned his most influential critics to the cabinet as a means of containing and absorbing them. In so doing, Arafat exhibited an unwillingness to handle corruption, and continued with his policy of either keeping those people suspected of corruption and misuse of power close to him so that he secured their full attachment to him as the source of their legitimacy, or containing and absorbing his critics by enabling them with some sort of new power.

Nevertheless, Arafat’s continuous attempts to surround himself with “clients” and to play the role of their patron resulted in some failed situations. Abdel El Jawad Salah, a PLC member and one of Arafat's most vocal critics, turned down the position of a minister without portfolio, and described the new cabinet as “a real tragedy for Palestinians”. Also a PLC member and former Minister of Higher Education, Hanan Ashrawi refused to keep his position in the new cabinet in protest of Arafat’s reluctance to promote real reform; “what is needed, Ashrawi asserted, “is not to maintain the old structure...but substantial and comprehensive reform”. Notwithstanding the critical voices swirling around in the new cabinet, the PLC passed a vote of confidence in it and consequently abrogated one of the most serious attempts at reform. Ali Abu El al-Reesh, a PLC member, expressed his frustration over the PLC vote of confidence and called on his colleagues “to apologize for those ministers suspected of corruption”.


However, the PLC vote of confidence in the new Cabinet did not imply the issue of corruption had been distanced from public concern. In fact, corruption remained widely discussed by the public. One of the chief concerns of the public had to do with the system of favouritism and nepotism that characterised recruitment to various PA ministries. Alongside this concern was another relating to PA officials’ use of public funds for private benefits, e.g., the construction of luxurious houses similar to those of former Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammoud Abbas (better know as Abu Mazen), Minister of Social Affairs Intisar El Wazir, and Muhammad Dahaln who headed Gaza's Preventive Security Forces at Gaza beach. Though these assertions are difficult to prove, they are also difficult to disapprove given the PA's lack of transparency and clear guidelines and regulations regarding public expenditure.

Officially tolerated monopolies were interesting examples of institutional weakness within the PA. These monopolies were the Palestinian Company for Trade Services (Cement Company), the Palestinian Development and Investment Company, the Petroleum General Commission, and Tobacco Commission. These companies assumed monopolies over products like wheat, cement, flour, oil, fuel, iron, cigarettes, computers, dairy, and others. It is thought Muhammad Rashid, Arafat's economic advisor and the man who controlled most economic activities in the autonomous territories managed them.

All of these monopolies operated outside the PA’s regular budget, and no one knows their exact annual revenue. Despite this, some estimate the figure at 300 million USD per year. Still, these estimations lack supportive evidence, and remain difficult to substantiate given the mysterious nature of the monopolies. This mysterious nature also made it difficult to know whom among PA officials has connection to the monopolies. A widely spread rumour among Palestinians asserts that Muhammad Dahaln and Rashid were the monopolists of cement and fuel trade, and some scholars point to Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Sha’ath having owned a computer monopoly, and Ahmed Qrieh as co-owner of the conserves, cigarette and dairy monopolies.


While the public exchanged these rumours they suffered severe economic conditions, mainly due to the Israeli policy of closure that denied the some 120,000 Palestinians employed by Israel in 1992 access to Israeli labour markets in 1996. The hard economic conditions facing these Palestinians were similar to those of the Palestinians absorbed by the PA service sectors (civil and security), whose number is estimated to have been 85,000 in 1998 and whose average remuneration did not exceed 274 USD/month (decreased to 135 USD/month if unpaid family members are taken into account). This monthly income of a Palestinian family barely covered its monthly expenditure, an average of which has been estimated to have been 579 Jordanian dinars (approximately 830 USD) in 1998.375 Adnan Samara, Deputy Minister of Industry, expected internal unrest if the economic conditions of those Palestinians did not improve; “the situation is very dangerous...the people have not seen any results...people have more difficulties now than before the authority was created...” Samara's expectations became facts on the ground when basic products’ prices — including Fuel and Wheat prices — shifted at unprecedented rate in PA autonomous areas in late November of 1999.

Hundreds of Palestinians protested this shift, and called on the PA to bring an end to their economic suffering. In the words of Anies Abu Muhsan, a shop owner: “people are very angry...the horrible shift of the prices promoted their protests”. The demonstrators, many of whom are landless refugees, took to the street with banners reading, “Lions starve in the refugee camps, and dogs eat the meat of sheep”. People placed the responsibility of this shift on PA officials who, according to Sara Adwan (a 45-year-old teacher and mother of ten children whose husband was unemployed), were “adding more suffering on the shoulders of our people”. In a political statement issued on 25 November, Fatah called these officials the Mafia that got rich at the expense of other people, pointing particularly at Mohammad Rashid as an octopus who “sucks our people’s blood and eats their meat and bones”. Fatah went further and called on Arafat “to immediately bring end for monopolies and grafts grow at the expense of people’s basic needs”. Fatah's demand of Arafat to end monopolies on one hand implied his advocating the free market as area of fairness and justice, and on the other its awareness of the mode of government endorsed by the PA.

This mode of government, which is in principle a presidential mode, concentrated extensive power in the hands of Arafat. The power includes the appointment of members of cabinet, the promulgation and veto of laws passed by the legislative body, the right to issue decree and decisions that enjoy the power of laws, the appointment of officials within PA security and civil sectors, the establishment and dissolution of civil institutions, the control of donor aid and it’s distribution, and the approval of the PA’s security and civil personnel payroll. Much of this power had been promoted by the Oslo accords.


Article IV of Oslo II, for example, enabled Arafat to appoint members to cabinet, and article. XVIII enabled him to veto, promulgate, initiate, and issue legislations. In part, thus, it was the Oslo accord which promoted such a mode of government. Yet Arafat's opposition to institutionalization and his appetite for power as expressed by his control of “almost every decision” and his preference for “personally selecting each appointee to PA jobs of any importance”, were also factors which according to Barry Rubin blocked “PA activity...when Arafat is out of the country, or even away from his office for the day”.

In assuming hegemony over the Palestinian decision making process, Arafat was backed by the Palestinian security forces, the majority of whom were affiliated with Fatah and whose commanders were his clients and loyalists. These security forces were only one of the many sources of Arafat power. Among the others was Arafat's capacity to re-produce an elite atmosphere around himself by blending so called “insiders” and “outsiders”. To apprehend the importance of this latter source of Arafat’s power, one must first recognise the social and political ramifications of the term “outsiders” and “Insiders”. The issue of outsiders vs. insiders emerged when Israel, in parallel with the Oslo process, enabled nearly 500 PLO cadres and deportees to return to their homes in the territories. The vast majority of these cadres and deportees were affiliated with Fatah (only 40 were affiliated with the PFLP and the DFLP, both of which opposed the Oslo accords).

Among these cadres and deportees were those who had been socialized in the Arab world like Mohammoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Ahmed Qrieh (Abu Ala’), Nabil Sha’ath, former Secretary General of the PA’s Cabinet Ahmad Abdel El Rahman, and Presidential Chief of Staff Tayeb Abdel Rahim. The most prominent member of this set is Abu Mazen, who would later become historicised as the first Palestinian Prime Minister. Born in Safed in 1935, like many Palestinians Abu Mazen fled Safad for Syria in the aftermath of the 1948 was. Later he met Arafat, Salah Khalaf, and Khalil El Wazir, and with them established the foundation for Fatah. In 1980 he was elected to as a PLO executive committee member, and in 1984 he was appointed head of the PLO's Department of Arab Affairs before serving as PLO ambassador to Moscow, where on behalf of the PLO he signed a declaration of principles on 13 September 1993. After less than two years, Abu Mazen returned to the territories and was appointed by Arafat as Secretary General of the PLO in July 1995.


Close to Abu Mazen is Ahmed Qrieh, who would also later be historicised — as the second Palestinian Prime Minister. Qrieh, considered one of the PLO technocrats, was born in Abu Dis village near Jerusalem in 1937. He left Palestine after El Nakba, and in the 1960s joined Fatah; he was then appointed Director of the Sons of Martyrs Institute (Samad) in Lebanon in the 1970s. After the 1982 Lebanese war Qrieh, like most PLO cadres, moved to Tunisia where he was elected to as a member of the PLO's executive committee in 1989. In early 1993 Qrieh led the Palestinian team in their Oslo backchannel negotiations with Israeli government, and in 1994 he was appointed Minister of Economics and Trade before he resigned in September of that same year. In 1996 Qrieh was elected PLC speaker.

Khalil Shikaki notes that Abu Mazen, Qrieh, and other old PLO cadres owed their positions mainly to Arafat, rather than to an independent source of power based in the local community. Most of these cadres, as mentioned, had been born in villages and towns now considered Israeli territory, and consequently most of them were unfamiliar with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and had not experienced the Israeli occupation.

Alternately, the term “insiders” indicates the Fatah activists who actually grew in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and who organized as an underground movement in response to their victimisation by the Israeli occupation (which included detention and deportation). Typical figures from this elite are Muhammad Dahaln, Jibril Al Rajub, a PLC member and chief of Fatah West Bank Marwan El Barghuti, and Minister of Prisoners Affairs Hisham Abdel El Raziq. This elite enjoyed an independent source of power rooted in the local community, and consequently adopted different approaches toward society and the Arafat hegemony over the decision making process.


Unlike the outsiders, who felt less reluctantly towards Arafat's hegemony over Palestinian decision-making, insiders strongly opposed this hegemony and called for the decision-making process to be opened to wider participation. Rubin Barry observes that the former elite (the outsiders) had allied with notables (ayan) and professionals who had broken with the conservative characteristics of the traditional ayan to espouse the national cause, and consequently were rewarded by being permitted to join the post-Oslo leadership.

Nevertheless, Rubin notes the crystallization of the Palestinian elite into two camps — represented by the camp of PLO cadres plus ayan and professionals, and the camp of insider Fatah revolutionaries — did not imply unified supportive or opposing positions toward Arafat among either camp’s members. In each camp, it was possible to find exceptions to their rule. Zakariyya al Agha, for instance, was considered to stand among the ayan, and was appointed by Arafat as Chief of Fatah in the Gaza Strip, and as Minister of Housing in the 1994 cabinet; this appointment was made as a reward for Zakariyya al Agha's support of the movement during the first Intifada. Former Minister of Justice Frieh Abu Medien (an insider deriving from a large nomad family) behaved similarly, supporting the movement during the Intifada. Alternately al Agha and Abu Medien, both of whom lacked a popular base, were uncritical of Arafat. Marwan Kanafi, one of Arafat’s advisors, stood among the outsiders but, in November 1997, he warned of the ramifications of Arafat’s hegemony over the decision-making process and called for building “a democratic apparatus in order to prevent problems arising in the days following Arafat’s departure”.

At the same time, among professionals and the ayan it was also possible to find some members who stood in opposition to Arafat's hegemony. Hanan Ashrawi (a professional), as we have seen, refused a position in the 1998 cabinet and called for structural adjustments to be made to the Palestinian political system. Haider Abdel El Shafi — one of the most respected public figures in Gaza Strip, head of the Palestinian team dispatched to the Madrid peace conference and Director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as a former PLC member — resigned from the PLC on 28 September 1997 in protest of Arafat's semi-autocratic rule.


Mawaia El Masri, a member of a leading family in Nablus, was one of the signatories of the “Statement of Twenty”. Similarly, Rawia El Shawa derived from the most prominent family in Gaza Strip, and was elected to PLC in 1996 before she signed the “Statement of Twenty”. Moreover, the insider Fatah revolutionaries were not united in their opinion of Arafat. While Muhammad Dahaln, and Jibril El Rijub (derived from Middle Class families), along with their security forces, constituted a vanguard of Arafat's rule (or at least did in the pre-Al-Aqsa Intifada era, as far as Dahaln is concerned), Al Barguthi (derived from one of the biggest families in Ramallah) stood in opposition to such a rule.

On 25 October 1998 El Barghuti led a demonstration in Ramallah to protest the killing of one Palestinian by the Musa Arafat-commanded military intelligence during a raid on a Ramallah-based Fatah office. The demonstrators shouted “PA, PA, we want an end to torture, we want a freedom...” In a similar case, two Palestinians were shot to death by Abu Sharekh-commanded security forces in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on 10 February 1999. The event took place when hundreds of Palestinians protested against the State Security Court's sentencing of three Palestinians to the death penalty, life imprisonment, and 15 years imprisonment.

The murder of these Palestinians, committed by outsider-general commanded security forces, might serve as an empirical case from which to infer the nature of outsider-insider relationship. Having lived in relatively comfortable exile, and having enjoyed better living standards than the insiders, most of the outsiders were used to consumption values and consequently appeared less resistant to corruption and misusing their power. It was in their interest to preserve the Arafat's corrupted system, and even to protect it, despite the fact that this was necessarily done at the expense of the local community. On the other hand, the insiders’ long years of suffering under the occupation had promoted among them what might be called a utopia of homeland; through this, they dreamt of rule by a law-based political system, under which they would enjoy full political, civil, economic, and social rights in compensation for sacrifices made during the years of the occupation.


However, this friction between insiders and outsiders the emerged over the proper mode of government did not imply friction over the peace process. Both insiders and outsiders supported the peace process, as both their interests were connected to it. Azmi Bishara notes that the peace process had privileged these Palestinians by enabling them to enjoy “exclusive status” as VIPs, consequently making them different from the majority of people who continued to suffer Israeli measures like closure, detention, and so forth. In so doing, Bishara goes on to state these elite had become ‘a cliental network’ in regards to the peace process. Due to their convergence around the peace process, and their simultaneous divergence over the proper mode of government that should follow it, both insiders and outsiders considered Arafat to be the final arbitrator, their centre of gravity. Consequently, Arafat was able to play them off each other, and thereby to control the game, ultimately attaching insiders and outsiders to each other through their collective membership in the executive body.

The Palestinian cabinet of 28 May 1994 was, for instance, a blend of outsiders and insiders. Out of seventeen ministers (including Arafat with the portfolio of Interior), seven were outsiders and nine were insiders. The outsider ministers were: Yasir Amr (Minister of Education), Yasser Abd Rabbu (Minister of Culture and Arts), Samir Ghusha (Minister of Labour), Ahmed Qrieh (Minister of Economic and Trade), Muhammad al-Nashashibi (Minister of Finance), Nabil Sha’ath (Minister of Planning and International Cooperation), and Intisar Al Wazir (Minister of Social Affairs). Insider ministers were: Abd al-Hafiz al-Ash’ab (Minister of Communication), Azmi al-Shu’abyi (Minister of Youth and Sport), Riyad al-Za’nun (Minister of Health), Zakariya al-Agha (Minister of Housing), Frieh Abu Medien (Minister of Justice), Sa’eb Erekat (Minister of Local Government), Ilyas Frayj (Minister of Tourism), Hassan Tahboub (Minister of Islamic Waqf), and Abdel A Ziz al Haj Ahmad (Minister of Transportation).

Of these sixteen ministers, eight were affiliated with Fatah — Ahmed Qrieh, Nabil Sha’ath, Sa’eb Erekat, Intisar Al Wazir, Frieh Abu Medien, Zakariya al-Agha, Riyad al-Za’nun, and Abdel Aziz al Haj Ahmad. Five had been categorized as independents (close to Fatah); two ministers (Yasser Abd Rabbu & Azmi al-Shu’abyi) were affiliated with Fida (a splinter group of the DFLP) and one attaching himself to the Popular Struggle Front known as Samir Ghusha.


Consequently, Fatah dominated the major Palestinian executive body while at the same time that body was internally divided to enable Arafat to keep control. In a sense, Arafat preferred his own party members to those of any other. However, he was constantly concerned about the potential emergence of a unified political front that might challenge his authority, and so encouraged a heterogeneous cabinet.

The structure of the second Palestinian cabinet of May 1996 might substantiate the above analysis. A further nine insiders joined, and four insider ministers were fired: Faisal El-Husayni, Minister of Jerusalem (without portfolio); Abdel El Jawad Salah, Minister Agriculture; Imad Faljoui, Minister of Communication (replaced Abd al-Hafiz al-Ash’ab); Hanan Ashrawi, Minister of Higher Education (new ministry); Maher El Masri, Minister of Economic and Trade (replaced Ahmed Qrieh); Ali El Qawasmi, Minister of Transportation (replaced Abdel A Ziz al Haj Ahmad); Abdel El Rahman Hamd, Minister of Housing (replaced Zakariya al-Agha); and Abdel Aziz Shahien, Minister of Supply (new ministry); and Jamil El Tarafi, Minister of Civil Affairs. Only two more outsiders joined the Cabinet: Bashir El Barghouti for Industry (a new ministry), and Talal Sadr as Minister of Youths and Sport (replacing Azmi al-Shu’abyi).

The 1996 cabinet, accordingly, was formed of up to 23 ministers (excluding Arafat), out of whom thirteen were insiders and ten were outsiders. Of these 23 ministers, twelve were affiliated with Fatah; six out of these twelve Fatah-affiliated ministers had served in the 1994 Cabinet (when Ahmed Qrieh and Al Haj Ahmed were no longer in cabinet), and six were new. The newly appointed ministers were: Faisal El Husayni, Ali El Qawasmi, Maher El Masri, Abdel El Rahman Hamd, Jamil El Tarafi, and Abdel Aziz Shahien. Seven ministers had been classified as independents, one affiliated with Fida (Yasser Abd Rabou), one attached himself to the Popular Struggle Front (Samir Ghusha), one (specifically Bashir El Barghouti) was affiliated with the People’s Party (originally the Palestinian Communist Party, but renamed in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union), and one had at one time been close to Hamas (Imad El Faljoui).


The 1996 cabinet thus exhibited further domination of the Fatah over the executive body. Even the post of Secretary General, which had evolved at time, was entrusted to the Fatah-affiliated Ahmed Abdel El Rahman. Moreover, Jamil Hilal noted that Fatah domination was not confined to the cabinet; it also extended over Palestinian bureaucracy. Out of the forty deputies and assistant deputy ministers of the Palestinian ministries, Halal observed that in 1996 thirty-three were affiliated with Fatah.

Usually appointment to these posts, and to any post of importance in Palestinian bureaucracy (e.g., a ministry's Director-General), had to be endorsed personally by Arafat. Political considerations, excepting some fields like finance and planning, were the chief factors deciding appointments. Those who were appointed to these posts usually lacked the necessary professional qualifications (in the narrow sense of the word) to fulfil their job. Their power was derived from their connection to Arafat, who punished/rewarded them according to their readiness to cooperate with him. Simply, their futures relied on Arafat who, if they cooperated, would be generous and privilege them in various ways (e.g., he would tolerate their misuses of power). The affair of a “forged citrus certificate” by the Ministry of Agriculture395 is a good example, showing not only how Arafat tolerated these officials' misuse of power, but also how their connection to Arafat encouraged them to rebel against their ministers.

In October 1997 Minister of Agriculture Abdel El Jawad Saleh discovered the involvement of a number of his ministry's high-ranking officials in the production of false licences for Israeli citrus produce that allowed Palestinians to market their products in Jordan markets. Among said officials was Deputy Minister Azzam Tbeileh, an Arafat appointee and loyalist. Tbeileh denied the charge, and attacked Saleh with accusations that he was paralyzing the ministry’s work. Though Saleh presented a report on the issue to the PLC, no investigation was made and in fact Saleh was fired from his ministry the following year (Tbelieh stayed).


In addition to the privilege of protection (as illustrated above), officials enjoyed the privilege of having their family members and people with whom they had connection enjoy a living standard higher than that of normal people — what Bishara calls “exclusive status” or that of “VIPs”, with its derivative rights including free movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, special treatment in cases of travel conducted outside the autonomous areas, special treatment in every contact they made with various PA public institutions, special medical services (e.g., being treated in Egyptian, Jordanian, and Israeli hospitals and, in some cases, even in European hospitals), in addition to other privileges.

In doing the above, Arafat was willing to extend his system of patronage to the bottom level of society, and consequently divided that society between those who benefited from his patronage and those who were harmed by it. As a result, social conflict — in the sense of competition between well-organized interest groups that had access to political institutions and could influence state policies — disappeared from the Palestinian scene. Arafat's system of patronage discouraged such conflict, and instead promoted an unproductive version that is “...not channelled into a political institutions in a way that reinforce their primacy, but is instead fragmented and transferred into competition over patronage and access to the personalized...power within the PA apparatus”. Rex Brynen believes that this kind of conflict is a typical feature of a neopatrimonial system, in which state power and funds distributed by the patron (in our case, Arafat) become a means of gaining the loyalty of the clients, who engage from their side in stiff competition (fuelled by the patron) over this power and financial support.

The origin of this system is rooted in the Ottoman era, when the central authority empowered the village Sheikhs with the right of tax collection in exchange for their loyalty and local influence. With the introduction of the Tanzimat (reform) in 1839, Ottomans reproduced their patronage system through administrative councils that enabled the ayan to assume the role of tax collection (See Chapter II, Pp.47-51).


The end of Ottoman Rule in 1919 and the British assumption of power in Palestine were not followed by the disappearance of this system. Rather, the system was again invoked when British mandate tolerated the Muslim-Christian Association (MCA) and later set up the Supreme Muslim Council (SMC). Both institutions, as we have seen in chapter II (Pp. 52-53), were dominated by leading families permitted to claim full representation of Palestinians before the mandatory government. Under the Israeli occupation, the system was re-produced once again when Moshe Dayan, paralleling his policy of “non-intervention”, enabled Palestinians to organize municipal elections in 1972 that created a pliable indigenous leadership (see chapter II, Pp. 80-83). While the occupation realized its goals in the 1972 election, as we have seen in chapter II, it failed to do so in the 1976 elections (see chapter II, Pp. 88-92), and thus in the 1980s it turned to support the short-lived but still pliable local leaders (through the village league, see chapter II, Pp. 100-102), and franchised said leaders with limited power in exchange for loyalty.

When Arafat and his authority arrived in the territories in 1994, the system had been invoked but in wide scale. Having enjoyed the status of the symbol of Palestinian nation, and at the same time, a long history of fighting for Palestinian cause, Arafat had little difficulties in asserting himself not only as PA leader, but also as a "father” of all Palestinians. In so doing, Arafat was backed by the traditional power-orientated (e.g., patriarchal) culture of Palestinian society, which strongly asserts values such as fatherhood

It was this value system that created mixed feelings toward Arafat. Despite Palestinians’ criticisms of his semi “autocratic” rule, and his hegemony over the decision-making process, they continued to consider him as their only conceivable leader! In the words of Rawia El Shawwa, one of the signatories of the Statement of Twenty: “because he is the president...he behaves in a fatherly and authoritative manner...Arafat’s manner is tolerated because he is the spiritual leader”.400 Even his opponents, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, refrained from discussing issues related to Arafat's legitimacy as Palestinian leader. This value context prompted Arafat to address his people with words like “my people... the sons of my people and my clan, my loved ones...” upon his arrival in the territories in July 1994.


Though Arafat's relationship with his people, normatively speaking, should be a constitutional one and should be shaped through formal legal structures (e.g., not informal tradition-derived structures), Arafat ignored this in his speech by, for example, failing to employ words like citizens. So Arafat was willing to assert customary law based on personal connections, at the expense of civil law based on legal and formal relations. Arafat went further even in November 1994, institutionalising this trend by setting up a “Presidential Department for Tribal Affairs” to adjudicate problems between families.

Arafat's blend of informal social structure with the legal para-state structure of the PA further manifested itself in the involvement of various PA officials in settling family disputes according to customary law. On 29 September 1995 rites of tribal conciliation between two families in the village of Shyukh in Hebron took place under the auspice of Colonel Abu Khalid al-Lahham, Arafat's advisor on Asian and Islamic world affairs. On 30 September a tribal conciliation ceremony was concluded between the Qaysia and Nisann families under the auspice of the Presidential Security Forces in Jericho, “with the blessing of the Authority”. Jamil Hilal asserts that Arafat's promotion of tribal coalitions and customary law sought to weaken voluntary associations (e.g., political parties) structured according to horizontal principles, and thereby was actually at odds with the basic principles of Arafat's neopatrimonial system; the cliental relations being based on vertical principles.

More importantly, however, the promotion of tribal coalitions would have negative ramifications on prospects for setting up a modern state-society relationship based on a group of abstract binding rules, as Joel Migdal suggests, and would instead emphasize personal connection as an instrument of access to state power and resources. The overall outcome was a state of affairs in which some social groups were underrepresented either in economic or political terms, and other groups (that accepted a cliental role) were represented in various state apparatus under patronage of their claimed “father” (Arafat).


In 1998 Arafat showed further determination to keep his neopatrimonial system, when he maintained positions of those cabinet ministers suspected of corruption, and absorbed two members of the PLC committee who had investigated the corruption in the PA apparatus in 1997. Arafat expanded the cabinet positions from 23 to 31 (including Arafat himself within the Ministry of Interior), and indirectly fired two of his most persistent critics (Hanan A shrawi, and Abdel El Jawad Saleh) after demoting Saleh to the position of a minister without portfolio. He also orchestrated Ashrawi's resignation by enabling those ministers suspected of corruption to keep their positions in the new cabinet.

In addition, Arafat founded three new ministries: the Ministry of Environment’s Affairs (Youssef Abu Safiah, member of the PLC committee to investigate corruption was appointed Minister), Ministry of Prisoners Affairs (Hisham Abdel El Raziq, one of insider Fatah revolutionaries was appointed minister), and Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (Nabil Amr, a Fatah-affiliated outsider, was appointed minister). Moreover, Sa’di El Krunz, head of the PLC committee assembled to investigate corruption, was appointed Minister of Industry instead of Bashir El Barghouti, who remained in the cabinet but without portfolio. Alongside El Barghouti, Hassan Asfour, and Ziad Abu Ziyad, were appointed as ministers without portfolios. Afterwards, however, Asfour took over the newly emerged Ministry of NGOs’ Affairs. Furthermore, Arafat cancelled the Ministry of Youths and Sport, but kept its minister Talal Sadr in the cabinet without a portfolio; he also appointed Mutri Abu Atia as Minister of Tourism, in place of Ilyas Ilyas Frayj.

Some fourteen ministers of this new cabinet were outsiders (including Arafat), and seventeen were insiders. Of the thirty-one ministers, at least twenty were Fatah-affiliated, and the remaining eleven were either affiliated with the FIDA, the People’s Party, or were Independents. Consequently, the cabinet was again structured to support Arafat's neopatrimonial system which, as we have seen, weakened/restrained civil society, excluded/co-opted opponents, selectively restrained basic freedoms like the freedom of expression, tolerated corruption, abrogated rule of law, and finally, as the next chapter will discuss, undermined the role of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

Footnotes and Endnotes

236  Interview with Palestine-Israel Journal. Vol. III no ¾ (summer/Autumn 1996), P. 21.


The full text of the agreement is cited at the following link:

244  Sharif S. El Musa & Mahmud El-Jaafari. “Power and Trade: The Israeli-Palestinian Economic Protocol”. In Journal of Palestine Studies. Vol.xxiv, no.2 (Winter 1995), P.19.

282  Al Hayat Al-Jadeeda on 16 December 1995.

302  On 20 August 1997, for instance, the Israeli daily the Jerusalem Post, drawing on a report published by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG),confirmed that no fewer than 125 Palestinians had been detained for a year without charges being filed against them. See Ibid, on 20 August 1997.

314  Roger Simon. Gramsci’s Political Thought. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1982, Pp.68-69.

322  Ibid.

332  Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and Environment (LAW)’s press release on 18 December 1998. Online <>

375  Al Ayyam on 24 July 1998.

395  For details of this issue see Al-Hayat Al Jadeeda on 20 October and Al-Ayyam on 21 October 1997.

400  Palestine Report. Vol.2, No.31, Jnauary 17, 1997.

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