Historically speaking, Palestinians have always had some level of access to local level institutions (municipal and rural councils) but only intermittently had access to national level institutions of state functions (Parliament & Cabinet). However, at all times and regardless of the level of access Palestinians have always been constrained in their access by their ruler and this access was confined to particular social stratum. It was the Oslo process which made it possible (in theory) for everyone to have full access at all levels.

Nevertheless, as Chapters III & IV (the Oslo Autonomy, the Process: the peace, the people, and the authority, & the Palestinian Legislative Council: the Incomplete Democracy) show the reality of the Oslo process has meant that in fact what has occurred is a concentration of power into the hand of the ruling elite (Arafat and the small elite around him) at the expense of the majority of population who were denied access to national & local level institutions of state functions. This state of the political marginalization (or denationalization) of the majority of population hindered the emergence of a democratic political system based on the principles of the separation of powers, accountability, and transparency, and stifled the emergence of the rule of law.


Arafat and the small elite around him had not only hindered the emergence of a democratic political system, and stifled the emergence of the rule of law, but also (as chapter V of the Oslo Autonomy: Functional Perspective discusses) the emergence of a bureaucratic system with a recruitment system based on achievement rather than informal/irrational criteria (competence), highly specialized and differentiated administrative role of civil servants (differentiation), and well established and thoroughly understandable system of super-ordination and sub-ordination (hierarchy) as Max Weber suggests. Instead of building a bureaucratic system with these structural characteristics, Arafat and the small elite around him tended to enlarge and overstaff it, with the aim of gaining people’s loyalty, and supporting their legitimacy. Thereby, politicizing the bureaucracy, and hence, diverted it from its intended purpose (the welfare of Palestinians).

In sum, the peace process with its reference of Oslo accords hampered the building of durable and responsive political institutions as well as professional bureaucratic system. This happened when this process demobilized people (mainly due to its failure to realize Palestinian national aspirations in sovereign state and self-determination), and therefore, enabled Arafat and the small elite around him to concentrate power and to introduce a semi-autocratic rule stamped by a neo-patrimonial principles that enable the ruler to exploit public fund and institutions in order to gain people allegiance and to enhance his regime legitimacy.

In response, the opponents of Oslo process & Arafat- Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and PFLP-had strengthened their institutions, and started to practice Para-state functions parallel to PA formal institutions (as chapter V shows). Some of the opponents’ institutions had been laid dawn long time ago, and others had been founded after PA’s arrival to WBGS in 1994. These institutions, most of which are of charitable nature, became one of the main sources of services for Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinian families inside the territories became very much dependent on the services of these institutions. Some of these institutions went further and started running schools, kindergarten, and so forth. Al Salah Islamic Society, for instance, is affiliated with Hamas, and run several elementary schools in the territories.


The contribution of these institutions to Palestinians’ welfare became very evident during the recent intifada. The Israeli measures adopted against Palestinians during the current intifada had left thousands of them dead, other tens thousands injured, and tens of thousands have been arrested. Hundreds of homes demolished, and large stretches of agricultural land razed. In addition to the huge death toll, and the losses in the properties, the economic situation of most Palestinians has rapidly deteriorated with an unemployment rate of more than 63% by 2004.900 This fact, coupled with the financial crisis which the PA had started to encounter since the outbreak of the intifada, presented these institutions as a major supplier of the services for Palestinians.

Most importantly is the fact that these institutions are protected by the militia of the political party with which it is affiliated. El Salah Islamic Association, for instance, is protected by Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The Friends of Martyr, affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, and protected by the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. All of these institutions (together with the militia which protect them) enjoy autonomous status far from PA control. One can claim, therefore, that the Palestinian scene is witnessing a form of multi-states (in functional sense) or Islands of states, each of which enjoys autonomous status far from others’ control, and seek to gain citizens’ loyalty through the services it provides to them. The Palestinian scene might be illustrated by the following graph:


Accordingly, State- in the term of central, autonomous, and differentiated organization with the power of issuing authoritative binding legal rules and monopolizing coercion (as Joel Migdal suggests) was absent from the Palestinian scene.

That is why the reform emerged at the top of Palestinians agenda during the Al-Aqsa intifada (2000-2004). As chapter VI (Al-Aqsa Intifada: the Struggle for Reform) discusses, Palestinians initiated some reform measures during Al-Aqsa intifada. Nevertheless, the question of the Palestinian state in term of central organization with a power of issuing authoritative binding legal rules and monopolizing coercion remained open, and its answer remains conditioned on the ability of the newly elected PA president Mohammoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to conclude a final status peace settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ensuring the realization of the Palestinian rights in state and self-determination. Only this would enable PA to evolve itself into state with all the derivative attributes including the capacity of issuing binding rules and monopolizing coercion as Joel Migdal suggests

Accordingly, we can claim-drawing on our case (WBGS in the period of 1994-2004)-that the ability of any people to build their state in term of autonomous, differentiated, and centralized organization that monopolizes coercion and has the capacity to issue territorially binding rules is not separate from the process of building a state in terms of external sovereignty. The completion of the later process is a pre-condition for the success of the former process. Alternatively, building a state in term of external sovereignty is a pre-condition for building state in term of internal-sovereignty.

Footnotes and Endnotes

900  London-based daily of Al-Hayat on 31 July 2004.

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