Policy Failure, Power Relations and the Dynamics of Elite Change in Palestine
By Ahmed Badawi
July 31, 2004

Published in Orient, Issue 4/2003, pp. 555-577

Starting from December 2001, when it declared Yassir Arafat “irrelevant”, the Israeli government has vigorously pursued a policy aimed at isolating him and reducing his relative influence over Palestinian politics. Arafat was first confined to the West Bank, then to Ramallah, then to his compound. The compound itself was partly destroyed by the Israeli army, which in the meantime had reoccupied the whole of the West Bank. In addition to physical force, the Israeli government stopped all financial transfers to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and to Arafat himself, thus depriving him of material resources that are indispensable for the survival and maintenance of the relative influence of any “neopatrimonial” ruler. The Israeli government, moreover, mounted a media and a diplomatic campaign aimed at persuading the international community that Arafat was not part of the solution but the problem and the key obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The campaign bore fruit when the president of the United States asked Palestinians to, basically, choose between Arafat and their state. Under these conditions, coupled with discontent at home because of widespread corruption and other forms of rent seeking behaviour, Israeli policy makers must have predicted that Arafat would inevitably lose his power. 

            But as of early 2004, Arafat remained the most influential person in Palestine. In fact, Arafat was already losing a great a deal of his relative influence through the first year of the Al-Aqsa intifada, and judging by public opinion polls, the Israeli policy had actually reversed this trend. In all types of policy failures, a policy that leads to the exact opposite of the desired outcome must be the worst.

            And it is not just in the case of Arafat. Take the case of Marwan Barghouthi. Before the eruption of Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, Barghouthi was not at all recognised as a national leader. Following his arrest by Israeli forces in April 2002, opinion polls showed him as the third most trusted person in Palestine after Arafat and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas. The alleged terrorist, perhaps because of this very fact, had become a national hero.

            Even in the case of Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Israeli policy had at least contributed significantly to damaging his relative influence, even though the Israeli government itself, and the rest of the international community, vowed to support him as the first Prime Minister in Palestinian history, and as the potential replacement for Arafat.

            These and many other examples point to a consistent failure of Israeli policy. If interventions aimed at influencing power relations among the Palestinian elite lead to the opposite of the desired outcome, and if we rule out the view that the Israeli government was bluffing all along, this leaves one conclusion, namely, Israeli policy designers have incorrect knowledge about the nature of power relations inside Palestinian society. This should not be construed as a judgement on their cognitive capacity, but instead as a critique of the image guiding their policy.

            For many in Israel and elsewhere, the image of Palestinian power relations is dominated by the discourse of “neopatrimonialism”, which generally maintains that legitimacy, state authority and the relative influence of the ruler are maintained neither by charisma, ideology nor credible formal institutions but rather by the manipulation of material incentives.[1] In light of this logic, Israeli policy made good sense. Humiliating Arafat and framing him as the obstacle between Palestinians and the realisation of their dream, and then depriving him of material resources, would have certainly reduced the cost of rebellion against him, and would have eventually led to his demise. As the case of Arafat below clearly shows, rebellion against him did indeed increase, but eventually it proved to be insufficient to damage his relative influence.          

Proponents of “neopatrimonialism” are indeed correct in highlighting the role wealth plays in solving problems of collective action in hierarchical polities, via its distribution through informal patron-clients networks, and how this works to sustain the relative influence of the ruler. They would fail, however, in explaining the opposite condition, i.e. the capacity for collective action and the maintenance of relative influence when wealth has become scarce and patron-clients networks have been disrupted.[2] The key problem here is that “neopatrimonialism” downplays the significance of variables other than wealth, such as “nationalist discourse”, “leadership charisma” and “ideology”.[3] But it is precisely these and similar undervalued variables that seem to be most significant in explaining the capacity for collective action and the maintenance of relative influence even when the “neopatrimonialist” structure of the Palestinian National Authority has been largely disrupted. More significantly, these and similar variables are the ones that seem to be relevant in explaining short-term changes in relative influence during moments of transition such as the one Palestine has been going through since the eruption of Al-Aqsa intifada.[4]

             There is therefore an urgent need to systematically look back on the entire Oslo process, including the internal Palestinian political institutional arrangements emanating from it, without the distortion caused by a concept such as “neopatrimonialism”, which, as I have tried to explain elsewhere, is compromised by questionable assumptions, no predictive power, and errors of both omission and commission.[5] In this article, however, I will not take this discussion any further because there seems to be an equally urgent need to look ahead towards a more nuanced, alternative approach to explain how politics works in Palestine, focussing specifically on explaining the dynamics of change in relative power among the Palestinian elite. At a time when a new phase in the peace process is about to start, without a clear-headed understanding of these dynamics the policy failures of the past are likely to be repeated in the future, which is something that should obviously be avoided.

There seems to be three key basic challenges for students of Palestinian politics on the eve of a revamped peace process. The first is how to model power relations in the Palestinian polity, and how to provide an adequate explanation not just of the expression of power but, more importantly, its sources.[6] The second is how to explain not just the static nature of power relations but also the dynamic process of change in these relations. An alternative approach should thus allow researchers to predict probable outcomes of change in power relations and to assess the implications of each outcome for the emerging political system in Palestine. Specifically, researchers should be able to provide a systematic explanation of the causal links between changes in power relations, on the one hand, and changes in the mode of governance, on the other; and they should be able to predict whether an emerging mode of governance is likely to be efficient or not. The third challenge is methodological. In order to meet the first and second challenges, this alternative approach has to be based on more accurate assumptions about which are the most significant variables to explain Palestinian political reality. In this article, a number of variables are presented and treated both as determinants of change in power relations and as sources of power.  

            Material wealth is indeed a variable, but it is only one among others. After clarifying the terms “elite” and “change”, I will elaborate on the term “relative influence”, and then briefly outline the variables. They will then be used as building blocks for a historical narrative, which begins with an overview of the organisational context of the Palestinian polity, followed by three case studies of change in relative influence during Al-Aqsa intifada, of Arafat, Abu Mazen, and Barghouthi. They all belong to Fatah, and the historical narrative provides some clues to the power structure of this key and complex organisation. In the conclusion, I will return to the issue of policy failure and suggest ways in which the argument presented in this article could be extended to inform more effective policy, specifically aimed at facilitating the emergence of “efficient coalitions” possessing both the capacity and the ability to build a future “developmental state” in Palestine.[7]


1. Theory

The terms “elite” and “change” are ambiguous. To eschew a lengthy discussion of these two problematic terms, for the first, I simply adopt the notion of Politically Relevant Elite (PRE). The PRE “comprises those people in a given country who wield political influence and power in that they take strategic decisions or participate in decision making on a national level, contribute to defining political norms and values (including the definition of ‘national interests’), and directly influence political discourse on strategic issues.”[8] However, as this article suggests, the PRE could also include those from outside a given country. In a world that is increasingly interdependent, a great deal of influence on the politics of any given country is wielded by “transnational elites.”[9] In the Palestinian case, external influence is exercised not just by the leaders of transnational organisations such as the World Bank but also, and more significantly, by the Israeli PRE.

            As for the term “PRE change”, it could mean different things, such as a change in personnel, in composition, in attitudes, in recruitment patterns, just to cite a few examples. In this article, however, the use of the term is restricted to “change in relative influence” among the PRE. Three questions immediately arise: Relative influence over what? How to detect change in relative influence? And, most crucially, what are the determinants of this particular type of PRE change?

            The answer to the first question has already been explicitly stated in the definition of the PRE just provided. As for the second question, there are a number of measurable indicators that could support the claim that a particular member of the PRE has gained in relative influence, such as an increase in the share of trust or wealth. An increase in the share of trust is reflected for example in public opinion polls. An increase in the share of wealth is reflected for example in increased access to financial resources from external sources. 

Another measurable indicator of change in relative influence is a change in the position an individual PRE occupies in the organisational hierarchies of the polity. The more an individual PRE moves up the hierarchy, the more relative influence this PRE is likely to have over the incentive structure governing the behaviour of other actors further down the hierarchical chain. On the national level, this applies to members of the legislative, the top members of the executive, and the top members of other organised groups, such as political parties, trade unions, and religious organisations. This also applies to whoever is in a position to influence them, such as relatives, friends or professional advisors. But one must be cautious here. In societies where informal rules are more significant than formal ones, a seat in a parliament for example could provide much less relative influence than a position in an informal network of patronage linked to the ruler.

A final indicator of change in relative influence is a strategic or tactical change in the course of action followed by society to pursue its goals. If a society decides to modify its course of action, this suggests an increase in the relative influence of those PRE who have consistently advocated such a modification. For example, a decrease in the use of suicide attacks inside Israel, regardless of its cause, is an indicator of at least a potential increase in the relative influence of those segments of the Palestinian PRE who have consistently advocated such a decrease.

As for the last question, at least six variables seem to determine the degree of change in relative influence among the PRE. The first three are “resources” that could be considered as internal to one or more actors. These are knowledge, trust and wealth. The fourth is the behaviour of other actors, whether internal or external. And the last two are institutions and discourses. These variables do not exist in isolation from one another. They are interdependent, as will be shown in the case studies below, and they are also dependent on a context, which could be considered as a seventh, independent variable.

The context defines the set of problems society has to solve at any given time. Changes in the context bring about new problems, which leads to conflict among the PRE over what is the exact nature of these problems and what is the best solution for them, given the objective constraints imposed by the context itself, and the subjective constraints imposed by the limited resources of actors. Conflicts occur because for each problem there are usually several solutions, and each of these solutions results in a different set of winners and losers. Relative influence, in its lower levels, is determined by the relative capacity to propose new solutions. In its higher levels, it is determined by the ability to enforce the adoption and implementation of solutions proposed by self or others. The capacity and the ability of actors are themselves determined by a mix of the other six variables.

The first of these variables is knowledge. Empirically, this could refer to formal education, informal education, and what could be called aptitude. Formal education refers to the degree and quality of education, while informal education refers to life experiences. Aptitude is a residual explanatory variable. It refers to the innate capacity of an actor to negotiate and design effective strategies. It could be thought of as a form of political intelligence.[10]

Knowledge is a useful approximation of social background, and for predicting behaviour. It is what enables actors to realise that changes in the context have occurred and that there is a profit to be gained or a loss to be incurred as a result. It then enables actors to design strategies and tactics in order to maximise profits or minimise losses, given the constraints imposed by the context, by the other resources available, by the behaviour of other actors, and by the institutions and discourses prevailing in society at any given time.

If knowledge could be seen largely as the capacity to learn, trust could be seen as providing the capacity to organise. An actor enjoys trust when other actors hold a belief in his or her reliability, integrity and capacity. The third resource, wealth, provides the ability to act. In the Palestinian case, as elsewhere, these resources are not distributed equally among individual members of the PRE. For example, formal education is a key variable in explaining the increase in the relative influence of someone like Salam Fayad, the Palestinian minister of finance, whereas trust and political intelligence (a function of “aptitude”), as will be shown in the case studies below, are the relevant variables to explain the surge in the relative influence of Marwan Barghouthi. And as the other case study on Abu Mazen will show, it is the lack of both trust and political intelligence that eventually brought about the dramatic decrease in his relative influence.

The case of Abu Mazen is also a good illustration of how the behaviour of other actors, whether internal or external, can play a decisive role in determining the increase or decrease of relative influence. In the absence of enforceable formal rules for the political game, a pervasive condition in many third world polities and in societies engaged in severe internal or external conflict, the behaviour of “other” actors becomes a major determinant of the relative influence of any given actor. A ruler could whimsically choose to place a particular member of PRE higher in the organisational hierarchy of the polity. An internal or external enemy could place the same individual out of the political game altogether, through assassination for example. As for the ruler, the PRE, with or without the assistance of external actors, could unite against him and either reduce his relative influence or replace him with another ruler. In such an event, their success is largely determined by whether the “people” decide to support the ruler or abandon him.

Which leads to the last two remaining variables, institutions and discourses. In the standard definition, institutions are the humanly devised constraints on behaviour. They are made up of formal rules (constitutions, laws, contracts, etc.), informal constraints (norms, customs, etc.), and the enforcement characteristics of both.[11] Institutions are the rules of the game. In the economy, these rules determine who has the right to buy, sell, or produce what, where, for how much, and in which quantity. The political rules of the game, on the other hand, determine the position of an actor in the formal or informal organisational hierarchy of the polity. This position determines the extent of decision making power and the domain in which this power is exercised.

Just like institutions, discourses also function as constraints, not on behaviour as such, but on the images that shape this behaviour, which is the case, for example, of how “neopatrimonialism” has shaped the policy image of Israeli policy designers. Discourses could be divided into two types: simple and complex. Simple discourses are what the politically relevant actors say and write over time. These simple discourses derive their legitimacy from complex discourses, which are made up of ideologies and theories. These complex discourses are usually internalised, and they are best defined in terms of one another: ideologies are subjective theories of the world, while theories are internalised ideologies articulated as if they were objective knowledge.

Obviously, all these variables are problematic, and a theoretical elaboration on them is beyond the scope of this article. Such an elaboration is also not necessary since the immediate objective is not to construct a general theory of Palestinian politics but simply to suggest the possibility of a more rigorous, theory-led, policy-relevant explanation of only one aspect of politics in Palestine, namely, the dynamics of PRE change during the current moment of transition. The overview of the organisational context of Palestinian politics, and the case studies that follow, will highlight some of the causal links between these variables, and the ways in which some of them combine to determine changes in power relations among the Palestinian PRE.


2. History

2.1. Overview: The Organisational Context of the Palestinian Polity

Over the years, Palestinian PREs, whether inside or outside the Occupied Territories, have gradually coalesced around three key complex discourses: armed struggle, peaceful coexistence, and a synthesis of the two. All of these discourses, commonly rooted in the Palestinian national struggle, offer a solution to the two strategic problems that Palestinian society has confronted since the early decades of the twentieth century. The first is how to check and reverse Jewish and later Israeli territorial expansion in what was once known simply as Palestine. It must be noted that because of its perception of the conflict with Israel “as a long-term civilisational conflict”,[12] out of the three discourses, only the discourse of peaceful coexistence has developed what seems to be a coherent solution to the second strategic problem that has faced the Palestinians in modern times, namely, how to harness the rapid societal change caused by the dramatic redistribution of property rights in historic Palestine. Since the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1994, the struggle over how to establish efficient and equitable formal Palestinian institutions has subsumed this second strategic problem.

The first of these discourses, armed struggle, has as its core message the popular Arabic dictum “whatever is taken by force can only be regained by force.” The second discourse perceives the conflict with Israel as one that could only be won when Palestinian society has surpassed the level of development enjoyed by Israeli society. This discourse advocates peaceful coexistence once lost Palestinian rights have been regained, through non-violent resistance as the only effective strategy given the current structural power asymmetries between Israelis and Palestinians. It advocated peaceful coexistence within a democratic state; and now it advocates the peaceful coexistence of two sovereign and democratic states, although the debate about a single democratic state is resurfacing.[13]

These two discourses ran side by side throughout modern Palestinian history until 1974, when a synthesis gave birth to the third discourse, symbolised by the image of a gun in one hand and an olive branch in the other. This discourse offered the most acceptable solution, given the global and regional contexts at the time, and has since occupied the broader middle ground of Palestinian strategic thought.[14]

The circulators of these discourses have tended to act in three capacities: as individuals, as individuals within formal or informal organisations, and as individuals within organisations within coalitions. Any of these capacities is a valid basic unit of analysis. In this section, I select the coalition as the basic unit of analysis in order to provide a brief view of the general structure of influence among the Palestinian PRE.

Between 1994 and 2003 most of the Palestinian PRE have been members of three coalitions woven around the three discourses. These coalitions, from the perspective of the present moment, could be referred to as the ruling coalition (associated with the middle discourse), the reform coalition (non-violent resistance only), and the radical coalition (armed struggle only). Each of these three coalitions has a degree of relative influence inside Palestinian society, but both the extent and sources of relative influence vary. There are also distributional and ideological conflicts within and between these coalitions. But that should not obscure the very significant fact that despite the conflicts, there is also cooperation and a high level of interdependence among them. 


2.1.1. The Ruling Coalition

Despite serious setbacks, the most powerful coalition in Palestine still centres around the Palestinian National Authority and its various organisations, which overlap with the Fatah movement, including the various formal and informal organisations of the Fatah tanzim. This coalition also includes two smaller organisations: the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) and the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP). Members of this coalition occupy the key positions in the organisational structure of the Palestinian National Authority and represent a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

The structure of this coalition is hierarchical. The position of an organisation within it determines the amount of resources allocated to it from a central pot controlled until recently by the Palestinian National Authority’s president.[15] The relative influence of individual members of this coalition is determined either by their proximity to Arafat or by their positions in the hierarchies of their organisations, which is mostly determined by Arafat. In short, almost all members of this coalition owe most of their relative influence, directly or indirectly, to him. Arafat’s relative influence derives from his being the most “trusted” person in Palestine[16] and the one recognised by the international community as the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people.

Arafat’s popularity notwithstanding, this ruling coalition as a whole has been losing the trust of Palestinians, and thus its relative influence, which peaked in 1995 and early 1996. The assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the failure of his successor, Shimon Peres, to retain the premiership, deprived the Palestinian ruling coalition of a negotiating partner. Thereafter, the radicals on both sides determined the path of the peace process, dragging it from negotiation tables to the streets. As per commitments given by the Palestinian leadership to the Israelis within the institutional framework of Oslo, the PNA had to crack down on Palestinian radicals. This was not well digested by Palestinians, who began to see the PNA as a tool of suppression serving the Israelis, thus eroding the trust placed in it.

Add to this the internal squabbles over resources. With the relaxation of occupation, individuals reverted to rational maximising behaviour with a vengeance after many years of perceived deprivation in exile or in Israeli jails. This led to conflict in the coalition, especially between the members who returned from Tunis (the outsiders) and those who lived under Israeli occupation (the insiders). These distributional conflicts reverberated loudly inside Palestinian society, and the inability of the ruling coalition to deal decisively with charges of corruption and other aspects of inefficiency, which seemed to critically undermine the project of building viable Palestinian institutions, were another factor leading to a diminished share of trust enjoyed by the ruling coalition.

By the end of 2003, more than three years into the al-Aqsa intifada, the ruling coalition was in ruins, held together only by Arafat’s symbolic presence. Post-Arafat, defections from this coalition are likely to increase. In fact, whether anything remains from this coalition will depend on its ability to cling to the formal structures of the Palestinian National Authority, which in itself largely depends on the capacity of Fatah to regroup around a new leader(s) and transform itself.[17]


2.1.2. The Reform Coalition

The reform coalition is home-grown and includes some of the most highly educated members of the Palestinian PRE.[18] Unlike the returnees, almost all members of this coalition received their formal education in secular Palestinian universities, such as Birzeit University, or in Western universities, as opposed to universities in either the Arab or communist worlds. And unlike the insiders who belong to the ruling coalition, only a few of them received portions of their informal education inside Israeli jails. Instead, it was the exposure to the West that has shaped their perception of reality. Almost all of them control independent formal organisations, and almost all of these organisations are members of the Palestinian Non-governmental Organisations’ Network (PNGO NET). Some members of this coalition, such as Hanan Ashrawi and Ziad Abu Amr, are also members of the PLC. Others, such as Mustafa Barghouthi and leaders of the larger NGOs, play indispensable roles in setting effective institutions and standards of good practice in the health, agricultural, information, and other sectors in Palestine. 

Since 1994 there has been competition between this coalition and the ruling coalition over the distribution of external resources and over the shape of internal policies (especially regarding institutional reform) and external policies (especially regarding the handling of negotiations with the Israeli government).

Although competition over resources exists within this coalition, it should not be overemphasised. External development assistance, the main source of financial resources for the organisations in this group, is allocated by sector, which means that there is little room for competition among organisations specialised in different sectors.[19] Also, because of the voluntary mode of organising in this coalition, issues such as ideology, personal chemistry, or envy among individuals, which all underpin “trust”, might sometimes offer better explanations for cooperation or non-cooperation than does competition over the distribution of resources.

Members of this coalition derive their relative influence from a number of interrelated factors. They have more relative influence inside the coalition when they are in positions to influence policy and decision making on the national level, either through being a minister, being a member of the PLC, or being close to Arafat. Relative influence also derives from the ability to communicate with the West, which is perceived as a source of wealth and, more significantly, as a source of solutions to the conflict with Israel. The size of the organisation also matters, as does the nature of its activity. For example, organisations with a broad outreach in society create political constituencies for their leaders, but not necessarily for the coalition as a whole. This fragmentation of constituency makes the overall relative influence of this coalition rather modest compared to the other two coalitions. On the other hand, the growth in the size of individual constituencies represents an opportunity because whoever emerges as a political leader in this coalition would command a considerable popular base.


2.1.3. The Radical Coalition

The third coalition is the most problematic. Unlike the other two coalitions, the radical coalition operates outside the formal institutional framework established in 1994. It rejects the Oslo agreements; it does not accept peace with Israel (but it accepts a truce); it wants to take back all of historic Palestine; and it believes that “the power of logic is not a substitute for the logic of power”[20] as a basic strategic orientation for achieving Palestinian national goals.

Because of their existence outside the framework of Oslo, members of this coalition do not compete with the members of the other two coalitions over the dividends of peace, but rather over the direction of future policy. This is essentially an ideological conflict. Since the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel in 1996, this coalition, together with its Israeli interlocutor, has been slowly derailing the peace process through military escalations. These peaked in April 2002 when, ostensibly as a result of suicide attacks inside the green line, the Israeli army reoccupied most of the West Bank, practically announcing the death of the first phase of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which until then had lasted a little more than eight years. The relative influence of the radical coalition derives from two key factors. The first is the appeal, especially in times of a radicalised public mode, of its  religious discourse, which has been described as an Islamic form of “liberation theology”,[21] and the second is the behaviour of the coalition’s Israeli counterpart. The dynamics of the interlocution between these two radical coalitions from both sides of the conflict is the most problematic aspect of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, and therefore deserves further elaboration beyond what the scope of this article permits.

These three Palestinian coalitions do not exist in isolation from one another. One of the main functions of the ruling coalition has been to meld the discourses of peaceful coexistence and armed struggle into a pragmatic, “simple” discourse. As a result, there has been considerable overlap especially between the margins of the ruling coalition and those of the other two, which gives Palestinian PRE an appearance of one single network (not so dissimilar, actually, to Israeli PRE).

This unifying role explains the endurance of the current ruling coalition in Palestine, and the appeal of the Palestinian middle discourse. One can even argue that the ultimate source of Arafat’s legitimacy is his political intelligence in perpetuating this discourse in a manner that represents the lowest common denominator acceptable to the PRE of all three coalitions, and is acceptable to the street as well, the “non-elite” actors. Other than Arafat, there is a coalition of Fatah “young guard” from inside the Occupied Territories, who have been coalescing around the “proto-symbolic” figure of Marwan Barghouthi, which appears to possess this unique source of legitimacy. This means that as long as the conflict with Israel continues, Barghouthi, more than anyone else, has the potential to eventually emerge as a leader for the Palestinians.


2.2. Case Studies

2.2.1. Arafat

The creation of the PNA in 1994 was the fulfilment of the core strategic objective of Yassir Arafat’s career, articulated almost twenty years earlier as the establishment of a “Palestinian national authority” on any liberated part of Palestine.[22] An independent state was supposed to follow in 1999, but as of early 2004 this state appeared nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, Arafat found himself under siege in a ruined building in Ramallah, after he was declared “irrelevant” by the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon.

In the wake of the reoccupation of the West Bank in mid-2002, Arafat made moves indicating a decline in his relative influence. With increasing demands for reform of his administration from Palestinians and the international community, and after much procrastination, he signed two key pieces of legislation: the law guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and the Basic Law. He shuffled his cabinet, reducing the number of portfolios from thirty-one to twenty-one. The new government included five new faces. Arafat also began reorganising the security apparatus. For the first time, he appointed an interior minister, Abd al-Razaq al-Yahiya. He then dismissed Muhammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub, Preventive Security heads in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively. Both men had been viewed by many as potential successors to Arafat.

Finally, Arafat declared his willingness to accept the Clinton proposals of late 2000.[23] The Israelis responded that it was too late. On CNN, a Palestinian official who was asked about the reasons behind Arafat’s turnaround responded that there had been no change because Arafat had never rejected the proposals in the first place. This led one young activist in Ramallah to wonder, if Arafat never rejected these proposals, then why did all the people who died in the intifada have to die?[24]

How does one explain the change in Arafat’s behaviour? The consensus is that the reason lies in the behaviour of other actors.[25] Arafat changed after all the other significant actors, internal and external, approached him as a united front and made one demand: reform. The key word here is all. It seems that Arafat changes his behaviour only when all others unite against him, and thus reduce his influence relative to theirs. This perhaps explains former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s warning, delivered a few moments after President George W. Bush delivered his June 24 speech in which he outlined his “vision” for resolving the conflict, that the United States must get Europe, Russia, and the United Nations to agree on a common policy without “a single crack [because] if a crack will appear, Arafat will enter into it and crack the whole system.”[26]

This is more or less what happened. Because of the consensus on reform among all other internal and external significant actors, Arafat changed his behaviour. But with no consensus on what reform actually meant, because these other actors had asymmetrical interests,[27] Arafat executed what could be called a “divide-and-survive manoeuvre”. He pooled all the demands, found the lowest common denominators, fulfilled them, and then waited for cracks in the united front facing him to appear. He survived, though badly beaten.

Arafat’s apparent weakness provided an incentive for dissent. In the months following the Israeli offensive, the leaders of Fatah demanded more power and genuine reform. They specifically demanded the appointment of a prime minister to steer the process of reform. As a Fatah member of the PLC explained, “a prime minister is somebody we can question in parliament over the progress of reform, somebody we can hold accountable. We can’t ask Arafat to come and answer questions in the PLC.”[28]

The idea of creating the position of prime minister seemed a good solution, whereby Arafat’s grip on power could be loosened but not totally severed. Arafat, however, saw such a demand not as a pragmatic solution but as a direct challenge to his authority, so he rejected it. Although badly beaten, he was still the most trusted person in Palestine, the elected president of the PNA, and the most significant Palestinian leader during the second half of the 20th century. In a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee in August 2002, the majority of those present demanded that Arafat appoint Abu Mazen as a prime minister. He categorically refused. Arafat’s refusal sparked a mutiny inside Fatah against him. He responded by referring to his opponents as conspirators. 

Some members of the Fatah Central Committee as well as some members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council were not intimated. They decided to mount pressure on Arafat at the PLC by encouraging Fatah members, the majority of legislators, to refuse to ratify the new cabinet, formed in June 2002. As a result, the cabinet resigned, and Arafat was required to form a second one in less than four months. And then on September 21st, 14 senior members of Fatah, from both within and outside the Central Committee, met, reportedly, in Abu Mazen’s house and drafted a document demanding, among other things, that Arafat should dismantle the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and appoint a new cabinet headed by Abu Mazen as prime minister, and that if he did not, they would. Apparently, the hand-written document never reached Arafat,[29] but its content was leaked to him. The situation may have looked bleak to Arafat, but at the height of the mutiny, the behaviour of two specific actors prevented a fatal blow to his relative influence.

First, resolve inside the Fatah Central Committee was broken mainly by Hani al-Hasan, who had decided to side with Arafat.[30] Second, following a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, the Israeli army reinvaded Ramallah and renewed the siege on Arafat’s compound, which, as should have been predicted, increased the sympathy of the people for him. Hasan was under siege with Arafat, and together they began rallying support among the lower cadres of Fatah, accusing Abu Mazen, Nabil Amr,[31] and others of conspiring with the Israelis in order to establish themselves as an “alternative leadership”. On September 23rd, a rumour spread in Ramallah that Arafat would be physically harmed, and within minutes, hordes of residents spontaneously flocked to Arafat’s compound, defying a curfew imposed by the IDF. By summoning the “young activists” to defend him against both the old and young guard of Fatah, Arafat entrenched divisions within the organisation, and dealt a serious blow to Abu Mazen’s image.

The tactic worked, and thereafter any talk of curtailing the relative influence of Arafat was perceived as treason. Following Israeli redeployment, the Fatah Central Committee announced that the debate on the issue of appointing a prime minister was closed until after the establishment of a Palestinian state. On 13 October 2002, Arafat met with the Central Committee to discuss the formation of a new cabinet. During this meeting, Central Committee members recommended the appointment of Hasan as interior minister, replacing the unpopular al-Yahiya.[32] A couple of weeks later, the second cabinet was ratified, with only eighteen votes against. Arafat once more survived.

Abu Mazen and his allies were still not intimidated. They must have also received a strong incentive when, in October, a revealed first draft of the Road Map obliged the Palestinians to create the post of prime minister. However, instead of trying to build a broader constituency among the lower cadres of Fatah, Abu Mazen alienated them further by making the politically unintelligent move of announcing at a meeting in Gaza in mid-November that a new strategy was urgently required because the Palestinians had been “defeated”, which is a taboo word in mainstream Palestinian discourse. This clear defiance of the sensibility of Fatah’s broad base widened the divisions within the organisation, and reduced even further the level of trust Abu Mazen enjoyed inside Fatah, and the Palestinian society at large.


2.2.2. Fatah, Abu Mazen and Arafat[33]

The power structure of Fatah is essentially made up of three circles of influence. The core circle consists of the so-called Fatah’s old guard, people like Abu Mazen and other members of the Fatah Central Committee. These could be thought of as the leaders of the tribe. The second circle includes Fatah’s so-called young guards, such as Marwan Barghouthi, Jibril Rajoub and Mohamed Dahlan, who are all members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Also belonging to this second circle are people like Qadura Fares and Hatem Abdel Kadir, members of the PLC, representing Ramallah and East Jerusalem respectively. These are the emerging leaders of Fatah, and its backbone. The third circle includes a younger generation, who have been referred to as the “young activists”.[34] They are, so to speak, the arms and legs of Fatah and the nerves of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Their main source of power is the grassroots support they command among thousands of Fatah activists.

On the eve of his appointment as the first Prime Minister in Palestinian history, Abu Mazen enjoyed the support of the core and second circles, made up of the old and young guards, perhaps a hundred people altogether, a fact that should not lead one to assume that this is a homogenous group. His support among members of the third circle was almost non-existent. The main reason for this was his views on the question of what to do with the Intifada, three years into its existence.

Not that it was a new question. Since 1987, the Palestinians have considered themselves in a more or less continuous uprising for independence. Discussion about the nature of such an uprising never ceased, although it might have receded into the background during the euphoric years of 1993-1996. The question has deep implications for the overall liberation strategy of the Palestinians, in particular, what mix of tactics should this strategy contain: armed struggle only, armed struggle coupled with negotiations, or negotiations coupled with non-violent resistance. On the eve of the formal invitation made by Arafat to Abu Mazen to form a Palestinian government, the politically-relevant elites of Fatah were divided along these three competing views. What was simplistically perceived as merely a power struggle between Arafat and Abu Mazen over the composition of the new cabinet, especially over the interior portfolio, was more significantly a deep ideological struggle between three camps over the essence of a strategy to achieve Palestinian national objectives. It was a power struggle indeed, but this time Arafat was not the only protagonist. He was just one among many. He still commands a great deal of respect, and as long as he is alive, his approval of a final deal will be necessary. Nevertheless, this struggle indicates that Fatah seems to have already embarked on its post-Arafat era. 

The majority of both core and second circle elite, especially those young guards of the 1987-1993 Intifada who joined the peace camp during the interim period but who were radicalised with the eruption of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, held the view that armed struggle, at least in the Occupied Territories, should continue parallel with political negotiations. This view was at odds with Abu Mazen’s, who favoured negotiations only. However, members of these two circles did support Abu Mazen as prime minister driven by their common interest in keeping Fatah together. Post-Arafat, the capacity of Fatah to survive as a single organisation will depend on its capacity to coalesce around a new leader and hang on to the institutional structure of the PNA. Abu Mazen was simply the only possible successor to Arafat on whom the various leaders of Fatah could reach a loose consensus. And because of his acceptance by the Israeli and American governments as a partner for peace, he was also perceived as the person who could save the PNA from final destruction. Therefore, despite ideological divisions, Abu Mazen could command the support of the leaders of his organisation.

Abu Mazen, however, could not capitalise on this support, and the same members of the Central Committee who brought him to power were the ones who turned against him later on. Unlike Arafat, Abu Mazen is not a good coalition builder, and with a reformed financial management system for the PNA, he could not command enough resources to cultivate supporters. His dovish discourse was another factor which did not attract supporters. Abu Mazen’s cabinet was rife with divisions, which reflected wider divisions within the Palestinian politically relevant elite in general, and instead of striving to build consensus, he took sides, usually the wrong ones. He must have been acutely aware of his weak position when he announced in his inauguration speech at the PLC that “the credibility of the government will be based on the effectiveness of its performance.” Abu Mazen envisaged that if he could achieve a one-year period of calm, convince the Israeli government to withdraw its forces to pre-intifada positions, and to ease restrictions on the Occupied Territories, he would have enough time to improve the living conditions of the people and build the PNA security structures. Within a  year, elections could be held, and it would be likely then that a de-radicalised Palestinian public would provide him with the legitimacy he needed to maintain law and order, including the confiscation of illegal weapons, by force if necessary. He did start on a good note, by extracting a pledge for a truce from the radical coalition, most significantly Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  This was a necessary step in the right direction. But it was certainly not a sufficient one.

Israeli security was not Abu Mazen’s only problem. He also had an even more pressing internal problem, namely, to improve living conditions for ordinary Palestinians, (re)form the governance structures of the PNA, and reach a historic agreement with Israel that would not fall short of Palestinian national demands. To achieve any of the above, Abu Mazen had to convince the Israeli government to end the border closures, allow for the resumption of normal economic and political activity inside Palestinian territories, and redeploy the IDF to pre-September 2000 positions. These were all immediate steps that should be taken parallel to dismantling settlements built since March 2001, and freezing the expansion of the other settlements. In exchange for withdrawing and ending the closures, the Israeli government demanded that Abu Mazen put an end to attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel, not only by reaching a truce agreement with the radical groups but also by detaining those planning attacks, bringing to justice those who had committed attacks, and disarming radical organisations such as Hamas.

Abu Mazen had neither sufficient legitimacy nor military strength to coerce radical groups such as Hamas to disarm. He therefore opted for dialogue, coupled with pressure from friendly Arab regimes, especially Egypt, on the leadership of Hamas to acquiesce. These pressures bore fruit, and a truce agreement was reached, initially for a renewable three-month period.

The truce could have lasted, and the virtuous circle envisaged by Abu Mazen would have been set in motion. Recent history shows that a truce could be sustained if Israel would reciprocate. In December 2001, Hamas and other groups observed a cease-fire called for by Arafat until Israeli forces assassinated Raid Karmi, a Fatah leader in Tulkarem. This was avenged by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade’s first ever suicide bomb attack inside Israel, in January 2002. In the summer of 2002, Hamas was about to declare a cease-fire, upon the initiative of Fatah, but then pulled out following the controversial assassination of Salah Shehada, one of the leaders of the Izz Eddin al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Finally, in November 2002, various Palestinian factions met in Cairo, but a cease-fire deal brokered by the Egyptian intelligence chief fell through because guarantees of reciprocity could not be obtained from the Israeli government.

This time was no exception, and Abu Mazen could not secure Israeli co-operation, not just on the issue of security but also on other crucial issues, such us the dismantling of check points strewn all over the West Bank and Gaza, and easing the stringent conditions under which the Palestinian people had lived throughout Al-Aqsa Intifada. Instead of co-operation, Ariel Sharon actually humiliated Abu Mazen by calling him “a featherless little chick who needs to be assisted in his fight against terrorism until his feathers start growing.”[35] The radical groups eventually defected from the truce agreement, and mutual violence resumed.

With conflicts between Abu Mazen and his former allies inside Fatah rising, he could survive only through the support of external actors. But this support was withheld, and his minuscule influence within Palestinian society vanished altogether when it was obvious that he could not deliver. He resigned from the membership of the Fatah Central Committee, thinking that this way he could act independently of the organisation. However, the only outcome was that he simply could not govern, and very soon he had to resign, after he was increasingly perceived by the people as possessing neither the capacity nor the ability to make a significant change in their condition.

And for the umpteenth time, pronouncements about the demise of Arafat, whether as a person or as a symbol, proved to be premature.


2.2.3. Marwan Barghouthi

But how much longer can Arafat survive? As a historic figure, and as the symbol of Palestinian struggle, Arafat will survive forever. As the prime Palestinian strategist, however, his time has passed. He derived his relative influence largely from the trust Palestinians had vested in him, and in his capacity to offer acceptable solutions, especially to the problem of Israeli occupation. Times have changed, and new leaders with new ideas are sought, ideas not just about ending occupation but also about building effective and sustainable political and economic institutions in Palestine.

Post-Arafat, the problem for both Palestinians and Israelis will be to find a popular leader with enough courage and sufficient credentials to formally reactivate the peace process, foremost in the minds of the Palestinian people, and to renegotiate and seal a historic agreement with Israel. This is no small feat because in effect it means acquiescing to the loss of historic Palestine, the regaining of which is the dream around which the whole of Palestinian nationalist discourse has been woven. Cynics wink and point to Marwan Barghouthi, whose arrest by Israeli forces has caused a surge in his popularity. In March 2002 Barghouthi was the person most trusted by 2.8 percent of Palestinians, which is only 0.2 percent higher than his standing fourteen months earlier. In June 2002, after his arrest, his share of trust jumped to 6.3 percent.[36]

Subscribing to the conspiratorial explanation of this surge in Barghouthi’s popularity, although defensible, would be giving too much credit to Israeli policy makers. Considering how occupation policy works in Israel, one is left with the impression that muddling through tenaciously in a certain direction is the prevailing pattern of policy making, as opposed to long-term rational strategic planning, which is the kind of exercise required to manipulate the political fate of someone like Marwan Barghouthi. Moreover, the behaviour of the Israeli government can explain the surge in Barghouthi’s relative influence, but it cannot explain the initial positive change in this influence, which resulted from the eruption of the al-Aqsa intifada and Barghouthi’s ability to provide “correct” answers to the new questions imposed by this development, that is, answers acceptable to key members of the PRE from the three coalitions as well as to the street.

In 1995, soon after Barghouthi returned to the West Bank from a brief exile in Tunisia, he joined the tanzim, the local informal organisational structure established by Fatah in the Occupied Territories during the first intifada, headed at the time by Faisal Husseini. The establishment of the PNA had reduced the importance of this structure, especially that most of the Fatah activists were incorporated not into a formally-organised tanzim, as should have happened, but rather into the various security agencies. Barghouthi was against this security dominance, and instead he was in favour of formalising the tanzim into a proper political party. He thus established the Fatah Higher Committee in the West Bank. This organisation, however, was never part of the formal organisational structure of Fatah. It was a parallel structure that managed to attract the local leaders of the organisation who were sidelined in the distribution of the peace dividend with the arrival of the “Tunisians”. This parallel structure, and an ambitious and outspoken Barghouthi, were thus perceived with a great deal of suspicion by Arafat and the other leaders of the organisation who returned to the territories.

In the 1996 PLC elections, Barghouthi’s name was not on the Fatah list, so he decided to run as an independent. Among the seven representatives from Ramallah in the newly elected PLC, Barghouthi gathered less votes than five of them, including Qadura Faris, his friend and supporter, who was ranked second. Barghouthi, Faris, and others, organised tanzim elections on the district and regional levels of the West Bank and Gaza in order to build a strong popular base, and by 2000, the process was almost complete, and voices calling for a general Fatah conference grew louder. Attempts were then made by Arafat and Hani al-Hasan, who served (and still does) as the member of the Central Committee in charge of the “tanzim”, to reduce Barghouthi’s relative influence. A new informal organisation for the tanzim was formed, and elections were announced. And it was not Barghouthi but Husayn al-Shaykh, Arafat’s favourite candidate, who managed to win. But al-Shaykh had no popular base, and members of the Higher Committee accepted neither the new organisation nor the outcome of the elections, which they claimed were manipulated. When the intifada started, Barghouthi quickly made best use of it, by rallying popular support around the Higher Committee, and by insisting that his title as “secretary general” of the committee be mentioned whenever he appeared on the screens of the Arab satellite channels, most notably al-Jazeera. His colleagues did the same, and the massive numbers of followers who walked behind him and his colleagues in the various demonstrations the committee organised in Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank helped to establish him as an ipso facto leader. Thus, from the start, Barghouthi did not owe his relative influence to his proximity to Arafat or to his position in the formal organisational hierarchy of Fatah, but rather to his own political intelligence and to the trust vested in him by a loyal constituency within an informal organisational structure.

Often critical of the PNA in the street as well as in the PLC, and hardly a recipient of any significant share of the peace dividend, Barghouthi co-opted himself into the discourse of reform, appearing regularly at meetings organised by Palestinian think tanks to discuss issues related to democracy and PNA performance. He also continued to strengthen his base in the street, forging ties with almost everybody, including the Islamists, the “young activists”, and even with Jibril Rajoub. Barghouthi had initially been critical of Rajoub’s attempts to militarise Fatah in the West Bank, as he was of the view that Fatah should instead transform itself into a proper political party. Both men eventually realised that it was in their best interest to co-operate rather than compete.[37]

With the eruption of Al-Aqsa intifada, Barghouthi maintained his discourse of peaceful coexistence and reform, but also developed a discourse of armed resistance. This, coupled with his consistent criticism of the PA and a personal reputation untainted by corruption, allowed him to straddle the three main coalitions within the Palestinian PRE while maintaining a strong base in the street. The payoff was swift. Soon after the intifada started, Barghouthi made his first appearance in public opinion polls as one of the most trusted persons in Palestine, and since his arrest in April 2002 he has been the third most popular political figure, after Arafat and Hamas spiritual leader Shaykh Ahmad Yassin.[38]

The arrest of Barghouthi also raised the relative influence of his whole coalition, led by people such as Qadura Faris, Jamal al-Shubaky and Hatem Abdel Qadir, all PLC members and ministers in the Abu Ala cabinet, Ahmad Ghoneim, Amin Muqbel, who has served as the acting secretary general  of the committee in Barghouthi’s absence, and Muhammad Hourani. They have been pushing for reform inside Fatah, and those of them who are members of the PLC have joined forces with representatives of the reform coalition in pushing for reform inside the PNA. This is a cohesive group, and an analysis of their sources of relative influence would clearly indicate that it is poised to increase even further in the not-so-distant future, not least because of their active involvement in the “Geneva Accord”, which promises to alter both the dynamics of the conflict as well as the dynamics of power relations among Palestinian PRE.[39]


3. Conclusion and Suggestions for Further Research

One of the crucial differences between the proto-type model of Western development and the way development in the rest of the world has been unfolding so far is that in the “original” model, change was largely the outcome of endogenous self-enforcing dynamics. The expansion of markets has created “rents” in the economy,[40] followed by distributional conflicts between the emerging capitalist class and the traditional rulers. With the accumulation of wealth, empowered groups in society started to demand and eventually secured a share in political power. This process was moderated by “efficient coalitions” who possessed both the capacity and the ability to respond to the new strategic questions facing society as a result of rapid capital accumulation. These efficient coalitions laid the foundations for developmental states in the evolving economies by ensuring the efficient distribution of the newly generated rents, in a way that led to the creation of a strong and sustainable middle class, which has functioned since then as a solid base and guarantor for subsequent political and economic change. 

In the polities of the developing world, and particularly in the case of Palestine since 1994, ruling coalitions do not just emerge as a result of endogenous dynamics but also in response to incentive structures created by external actors. The purpose of these incentive structures has been to influence power relations in a “client” economy so that ruling coalitions instead of serving the developmental needs of society serve instead to accelerate the process of integrating their economies in the global political economy, under conditions of unequal terms of political and economic exchange. But this issue of “inequity” creates grievances that threaten the long-term viability of client economies, as well as the security of the whole global political economy. As has been observed in the case of Palestine, which is valid for other cases as well, under conditions of persistent inequity, no amount of security can secure the viability of a client economy unless this economy gets equitably integrated with the “principal” economy. This strategy of “economic integration” between Israeli and Palestinian economies, as opposed to the strategy of “asymmetric containment” pursued under the institutional arrangements of Oslo, seems to be the only means of reducing distributional conflicts, both within Palestine and between Palestinians and Israelis.[41] After all, it must be remembered that the Middle East conflict is essentially a distributional conflict over property rights in historic Palestine, and that it ought to be seen in this clear-cut context and not any other.

It is therefore not surprising that the institutional arrangements of Oslo had ensured the entrenchment of Arafat’s power in the Occupied Territories,[42] the same Arafat who only a few years later was perceived as the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. And it seems that in order to remedy the original policy failure that has led to the increase in the relative influence of an arguably inefficient ruling coalition in Palestine, led by Arafat, the Israeli government has declared Arafat “irrelevant”, in an attempt to create incentives for the emergence of an “alternative leadership”. But as the narrative in this article suggests, that policy has also failed. Underpinning both failures are the inaccurate assumptions about the dynamics of power relations in the Palestinian polity, drawn largely from the discourse of “neopatrimonialism”.

There is an urgent need to re-examine our understanding of the nature of power relations in Palestine and elsewhere in the developing world without the distortions caused by questionable frameworks. This is certainly not a straightforward exercise. The first step to develop such an understanding is to be able to explain the determinants of change in power relations especially during moments of transitions. The specific policy value of such an explanation in an increasingly interdependent world is that it provides well-meaning external actors with two capacities: first, to be able to identify endogenously emerging efficient coalitions, and, second, to able to design policy interventions that would enhance rather than diminish the relative influence of such coalitions.

This article is only a modest step towards building such a capacity within the scientific research community concerned with studying and intervening in Palestinian politics. As the analysis indicates, it seems that an “ideal” efficient coalition has to satisfy at least six measurable conditions. First, the pool of knowledge available within the coalition has to be relevant to the strategic questions imposed by the context on society at any given time. Second, members of this coalition need to enjoy the trust of other key actors. Third, they need to have access to sufficient financial resources that would allow them to influence the incentive structures of other actors, and that would endow them with the ability to act. Material incentives are a key means of ensuring co-operative behaviour from other actors, which is the fourth condition, but it is only one among two other key factors, institutions and discourse. Members of an efficient coalition should be in positions higher up in the organisational hierarchies of the polity, in order to able to influence the key strategic decisions of society. As for the final condition, an efficient coalition has to be able to speak neither so far ahead of the dominant discourse in society nor totally within its boundaries, but rather only slightly ahead.[43] Moreover, as a coalition characterised with “adaptive efficiency”,[44] it should possess the capacity to adapt its discourse to changes in the context without abandoning its core, and in a manner that does not undermine trust in the coalition as a whole.

Needless to say, most coalitions will be found to come close to, but not fully meet, all these conditions. However, armed with such a conceptualisation, coupled with network analysis, external actors, especially donor agencies, can identify who to work with. Moreover, by measuring reality against the ideal, they can identify areas of intervention that would ensure the enhancement of the relative influence of “natural” efficient coalitions.

In Palestine, this process could never succeed in laying the foundations for a developmental state except under one condition: the de-linking of Palestinian institutions and the Israeli discourse of security,[45] because as long as power asymmetries remain, Palestinian institutions will be designed for the purpose of ensuring Israeli security as opposed to the purpose of building a viable developmental state in Palestine. Such institutions would always provide incentives for inefficient coalitions to rule, which would ensure neither long-term development in Palestine, nor sustainable security for the Israelis. And it is an awareness of this simple logic that can provide the best guarantee that the policy failures of the past are not repeated in the future. 

[1] Explicit theoretical treatments of “neopatrimonialism”, as applied to the Palestinian case, are scarce [see, e.g., Brynen (1995a, 1995b), Rabe (1999), Baumgarten (2001), cf. Khan (2004)]. The notion of patrimonial rule was borrowed from Max Weber by Roth (1968) to explain stability in a post-colonial world characterised by “social, cultural, and political heterogeneity of such magnitude that a more or less viable complementary and countervailing pluralism of the Western type, with its strong but not exclusive components of universality, does not appear feasible.” (pp. 203) It is puzzling that such a concept is deemed an appropriate analytical framework to study politics in a society still in the ferment of the struggle for national independence. Despite such an indiscriminate application to cases as varied as Palestine and other large and small countries in Latin America, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, this Euro-centric, static concept, a remnant from the era of explicit modernisation theory, has proved to be a resilient tool, and it has become what Thoebald (1982, pp. 555) has critically, and rightly, described as “something of a catch-all concept, in danger of losing its analytical utility.” For further critical assessments, see Medard (1982), Theobald (1999), Engel and Erdmann (2002). For an interesting study exploring the clients’ point of view regarding political clientelism, see Auyero (1999).
[2] This is derived from North’s (1981, pp. 11-12) critique of Olson (1965). 
[3] Brynen (1995b, pp. 40-41).
[4] “Neopatrimonialism” is a static concept, and is thus a blunt tool to explain change. Baumgarten (2001) has suggested that in order to remedy this defect, “neopatrimonialism” could be articulated with the concept of the “rentier state”. But that is also a static concept, and it is not clear how the addition of two static concepts can yield a dynamic model.
[5] See Badawi (2003b). For convincing evaluations of the Oslo period, especially its implications for the internal Palestinian political system, see Roy (2002), Hilal (1998) and Hilal and Khan (2004). 
[6] See Korpi (1985), cf. Lukes (1974). 
[7]On the notion of “efficient coalition”, see Khan (2002). On the notion of a Palestinian “developmental state”, see Hilal and Khan (2004).
[8] Perthes (2004).
[9] Etzioni-Halevy (2002). See also Etzioni (1968, pp. 114-115).
[10] The remainder of this section borrows extensively from Badawi (2003a).
[11] See North (e.g. 1994, pp. 360).
[12] Ibrahim Al-Dakkak, interview, Jerusalem, June 3rd, 2002.
[13] For an account of how a binational state is the most “rational” and “moral” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, see Tutunji and Khaldi (1997). Hilal and Khan (2004) have also argued that a viable state in Palestine could be sustained only if the Palestinian economy is integrated with the Israeli economy. At the end of 2003, Palestinian politicians have started waving back this demand of a single democratic state by raising the possibility of abolishing the PNA and thus force Israel to assume the full responsibilities of an occupying power under international law. It is estimated that Israeli Jews then would have to choose between an apartheid state or a democratic one in which they would eventually become a minority. 
[14] For an account of the evolution of Palestinian strategic thought since Oslo, see Abu-Amr (1996).
[15] The capacity of Arafat in this regard has been considerably curtailed since reforms in June 2002, specifically the appointment of Salam Fayad as an “empowered” finance minister.
[16] See the various opinion polls conducted during the 1990s by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center and the Center for Palestine Research and Studies.
[17] On current conditions inside Fatah and a glimpse into its future, see the special edition of Parliamentary Horizons, November 2002 (published by Muwatin, Ramallah).
[18] On the structure of this coalition and its agenda, see Brown (2002). On its evolution from the grassroots during the first intifada, see Robinson (1997) and Craissati (1996). For a critical assessment, see Hanafi and Tabar (2002). 
[19] George Giacaman, interview, Ramallah, 20 November 2002.
[20] “Quwat al-mantiq laisat badillan ‘an mantiq al-quwa,” a slogan on a wall in Ramallah.
[21] Abu-Amr (1996, pp. 23).
[22] See “Political Programme for the Present Stage of the Palestine Liberation Organization Drawn Up by the Palestinian National Council, Cairo, June 9, 1974,” Journal of Palestine Studies 3, no. 4 (1974), pp. 224-226.
[23] For analysis of the Clinton proposals and the initial reaction of the PNA, see Usher (2002).
[24] Conversation, Ramallah, June 2002.
[25] The consensus is among Palestinians interviewed during a field trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah right after the reoccupation of the West Bank, 31 May-14 June 2002.
[26] “Israelis, Palestinians React to Bush Speech,” CNN, 24 June 2002, http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/06/24/bush.speech.reax/index.html (downloaded 5 December, 2003).
[27] On the different agendas of reform, see Brown (2002) and ICG (2002). 
[28] Qadura Faris, interview, Ramallah, 16 November 2002.
[29] Cf. the account in Klein (2003, pp. 206-207) 
[30] Interviews, Ramallah, November 2002.
[31] Nabil Amr was the public face of the dissenters, especially after publication of the unprecedented letter to “al-Rais Arafat” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 2 September 2002) asking him in not so many words to step down. Later, as the dissent was dwindling, Amr’s house was fired on by unidentified gunmen.
[32] Al-Yahiya opposed the continuation of violence, and at one point Arafat accused him of conspiring with the Americans. Also, because of his discourse, he was widely unpopular inside Fatah, especially among the young and “younger” guards.
[33] This section borrows extensively from Badawi (2003c).
[34] Muriel Asseburg, interview, Berlin, 15 February, 2003.
[35] Agence France Press, “Palestinians Whine but don’t Fight Terror: Sharon”, 12 June, 2003.
[36] See Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, public opinion polls 39, 44, and 45, http://www.jmcc.org.
[37] It was rumoured that during “Operation Defensive Shield,” Barghouthi sought refuge with Rajoub before he was arrested by Israeli forces.
[38] See Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, “Public Opinion Poll 3, December 2001,” http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2001/p3a.html.
[39] Through their involvement in the Geneva process, the young guard wished to assert their increasing relative influence by proposing their own “solution” to the conflict with Israel. By tacitly condoning this solution, Arafat has effectively contributed to their legitimacy vis-à-vis the old guard who have criticised the Geneva accord. The text of the accord is available under http://www.jmcc.org/documents/genevaagree.htm. For a critical assessment, see Asseburg (2003).
[40] For an explanation of the notion of rent as “surplus”, and a discussion about the implication of different types of rent for economic development, see Khan (2000).
[41] See Hilal and Khan (2004).
[42] See Badawi and Kratt (2004).
[43] It is sad to know, but societal change is a slow process. Of course we should strive to accelerate it, as scientists and as concerned citizens, but one should also be wary of both the futility and also the potential harm of premature, externally-enforced change.
[44] See North (1990).
[45] For the argument underpinning this conclusion, see Badawi and Kratt (2004).


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Craissati, Dina (1996) “Social Movements and Democracy in Palestine: Politicization of Society or Civilization of Politics?” In Orient, 37, pp. 111-136.

Engel, Ulf and Erdmann, Gero (2002) “Neopatrimonialism Reconsidered: Critical Review and Elaboration of an Elusive Concept”, draft paper prepared for the 45th annual meeting of the African Studies Association, Washington DC, December 4-8, 2002.

Etzioni, Amitai (1968) The Active Society, London: Collier-Macmillan Limited.

Etzioni-Halevy, Eva (2002) “Linkage Deficits in Transnational Politics”, in International Political Science Review, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 203-222.

Hanafi, Sari and Tabar, Linda (2002) “On the Way to Nakba II”, in Between the Lines, October 2002, pp. 31-36.

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