FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2007



Between 2002 and 2006 the Palestinian government made numerous strides towards democratic reform, yet the outcome of the 2006 elections revealed a flawed foundation behind the movement.  International backers, such as the United States and EU, viewed democratization as a means to weaken Arafat and promote a peace settlement with Israel, yet unexpected results led these actors to harshly turn against the Palestinian reform movement.  What can this combination of successful reform initiatives and disillusioned failure mean for future democratic reform, not only in Palestine, but in the Middle East?  What lessons can be learned for future reform movements?

In a new Carnegie Paper, Requiem For Palestinian Reform; Clear Lessons from a Troubled Record, Nathan Brown, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, examines the successful establishment of democratic reforms in Palestine from 2002 to 2006, the changing nature of international support for reform following Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006, and lessons for the Arab and international community on the failure of democratic reform.

Brown argues that the importance of utilizing democratic reform as a long-term objective, rather than as a means to an end, cannot be better illustrated than in Palestine.  The immediate international abandonment of the reform movement following Hamas’ victory subjected Palestinian reformers to withering domestic criticism and promoted cynicism among many Palestinians.

One of the most striking aspects to reform in the Middle East is the extent to which Islamist movements have emerged as reformists.  The idea that unrestrained executive branches and existing Arab regimes are estranged from their societies fits naturally within the Islamist political program and appeal.


  1. To read this Carnegie Paper, go to  
    Direct link to the PDF:
  2. Nathan Brown is a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment, and co-author of the Carnegie Paper Islamist Movements and the Democratic Process in the Arab World: Exploring Gray Zones.   He is also a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.
  3. This Carnegie Paper is part of a larger series of case studies on democratic reform in the Middle East, produced by Carnegie’s Democracy and Rule of Law Program.  For more information, visit: 
  4. To sign-up for the Arab Reform Bulletin, an e-monthly with timely, incisive, and objective analysis of political developments in the Middle East, featuring original work from authors in the region, the U.S., and Europe, go to: 
  5. To request an interview with Brown on recent developments in the Israel-Palestine negotiations, contact: Trent Perrotto, 202/939-2372,

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States. Founded in 1910, its work is nonpartisan and dedicated to achieving practical results.