Published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

November 2007, Volume 5, Issue 9
Michele Dunne, Editor
Salma Waheedi, Assistant Editor

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Special Issue: Inside Palestine

Note from the Editor: 

That Israel and the United States accept openly the need to create a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian state—and that the U.S. administration is now pursuing that goal with energy—just at the time when it has become almost impossibly difficult to implement is rich in irony. In the West Bank and Gaza, time of course has not stood still since the last serious efforts at mediation ended seven years ago. Israeli settlements have continued to expand and proliferate, terrorist attacks and settler concerns have led Israel to construct a separation barrier that puts some 12 percent of the West Bank on Israel’s side, and the second intifada has led to an Israeli reoccupation and creation of an extensive network of roadblocks and other restrictions on movement. Gaza has undergone even more profound changes, with a unilateral Israeli withdrawal leading to economic collapse and chaos on the security front. Meanwhile Palestinian politics became increasingly polarized after the 2004 death of President Yasser Arafat, with Hamas gaining support at the expense of a fractured and corrupt Fatah and ultimately winning parliamentary elections.

The Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007 concentrated the attention of the United States and Israel, and now intensive efforts are underway to prevent the same in the West Bank—with the declared aim of creating a state of Palestine. Does the two-state solution still stand a chance in light of the changed realities since 2000? What would be the most meaningful steps that the participants in the planned Annapolis meeting could take to revive its prospects? This issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin assembles analysis and data to give you an updated look at the realities inside Palestine. In an exclusive interview, Palestinian parliamentarian and civil society leader Mustafa Barghouti outlines the specific steps he believes will be necessary from Israel, Palestinians, and the international community. Other authors—all of them current or recent residents of the West Bank or Gaza—offer a detailed look at how the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are governing the West Bank and Gaza since the split and how the economy, institutional reform efforts, and civil society are faring. I hope you will find this issue useful for analyzing the diplomatic process now underway.

—Michele Dunne

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Insights and Analysis

Interview with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and leader of the Independent Palestine bloc

Gaza: Life under Hamas Rule
Taghreed El-Khodary

West Bank: Governance since the Split
Charles Levinson

Palestine: A Look at the Economic Future
Mohammed Samhouri

Palestinian Authority Reform: Role of the International Community
Keir Prince

Readers React

Find out how readers are reacting to articles in the Arab Reform Bulletin. Join the debate by sending your views to the editor at arb@CarnegieEndowment. org.

News and Views

Palestine Data Profile
Palestine Updates:

Recent Political Developments
Legislative Updates
Freedom of the Press

Arab Countries: New Corruption Index
Egypt: NDP Conference; Crackdown on Journalists; Ibrahim Trial
Jordan: Upcoming Parliamentary Elections
Lebanon: Presidential Vote Delayed
Syria: Opposition Leader Faces Life in Prison; Activist Arrested
Kuwait: Cabinet Reshuffle
Oman: Shura Election Results
Saudi Arabia: Activist Jailed; Curricula to Be Posted Online
Bahrain: Human Rights Authority; Journalists on Trial; Marriage Age Set
UAE: New Investment Laws; Foreign Workers Strike
Yemen: Terror Convictions
Tunisia: Critical Reports; Islamists Released; Hunger Strikes
Algeria: Crackdown on Journalists; Censorship of Book Fair
Morocco: Prison Sentence for News Agency Director
Mauritania: Violent Protests; Journalist Trial; First Slavery Prosecution

Upcoming Political Events
Views from the Arab Media

Read On

A review of major recent publications on Palestine, as well as new publications on Egypt, Iraq, Syria, human rights, economic reform, the impact of outside powers, and more.

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Insights and Analysis

Interview with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and leader of the Independent Palestine bloc

How has life in the West Bank changed since the Fatah/Hamas rupture?

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the national unity government’s collapse, as there had been aspirations for Palestinians to be united. The current division between Fatah and Hamas, including the ongoing media tit-for-tat, is demoralizing people and creating a negative climate. In addition, even though government employees in the West Bank are now receiving salaries (which had been cut off), the economic situation is becoming increasingly difficult due to high inflation and a general economic downturn. This too has a negative psychological impact. Add to this a lack of improvement in terms of Israeli measures, whether roadblocks, construction of the apartheid wall, or other constraints on freedom of movement. 

Are Palestinian Authority governing and security institutions undergoing reform?  What is the role of Quartet envoy Tony Blair?

The main problem in the security institutions is partisanship and factionalism; we have not yet seen any real reform to correct this. On the contrary, there is deepening pro-Hamas partisanship in the Gaza Strip and pro-Fatah factionalism in the West Bank; this applies not only to the security apparatuses but also other government ministries.  Consequently, there is a great need for reform. So far, with the exception of a number of employees who were pensioned off, we have not seen genuine reform that would lead these institutions to take on a civil, nonpartisan nature.

Tony Blair is tasked with rebuilding Palestinian institutions, but there’s a sense of déjà vu—we’ve been here so many times. Effective institutions cannot be built without removing the constraints of the occupation and the roadblocks. The security apparatus’s ability to do its job is very limited because of its inability to move freely; when security forces were deployed in Nablus, for example, the Israeli army stipulated that the Palestinians be responsible for security only during the daytime, while the Israeli army takes over at night.

Consequently, in my opinion, effective security institutions cannot be built unless three conditions are met: first, the number of security institutions and personnel within them have to be reduced; second, their redundancy and partisan nature need to be eliminated; and third, the state has to have sovereignty, meaning that there is an independent state firstly and after that a genuine security apparatus can be built. The idea that the Palestinian people under occupation can provide security for those occupying them has proved a failure. Reviving it now will only lead to more disappointment, because it is not objectively possible.

Is there still a chance for a negotiated two-state solution? What do you believe the planned Annapolis meeting can achieve? 

This depends on Israel. If the construction of the apartheid wall continues, settlements continue to expand, land annexation continues, carving up the West Bank (including cutting off the Jordan Valley and Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank) continues, then what is actually happening is not the creation of a state but of isolated cantons. The occupation is turning into a type of apartheid regime, and this of course does not accord with building an independent Palestinian state.

I agree with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that there is a real danger of losing the chance for a two-state solution, mainly due to Israel’s unilateral actions. For Annapolis to constitute an opportunity and not just a disillusionment, three conditions need to be met: first, an immediate freeze of all Israeli settlement activities (which should not be too much to ask, as it is called for in Phase 1 of the Roadmap); second, that construction stop on the apartheid wall, which is a unilateral drawing of the border; and third, that Israel revoke its declaration of Gaza as hostile territory, which will lead to the irrevocable separation of Gaza from the West Bank and destroy one of the foundations of an independent Palestinian state. If these three conditions are met, this will open horizons for hope and peace.

Also, I want to stress that peace will not come unless there is a democratic Palestinian system that is accepted by all. Any reasonable person knows that just, permanent peace takes place between democracies and cannot be imposed by one side on the other. The European experience, and all experiences after World War II, confirm this. Protecting Palestinian democracy, rebuilding legislative, judicial and executive institutions, accepting the principle of political pluralism and the right to free elections, and respecting the choice of the Palestinian people are among the fundamental principles for a two-state solution.

Will a new infusion of international assistance to the Palestinian Authority help?

If there are not Israeli actions to ensure freedom of movement and dismantle the occupation, then the effect of new aid will be that of previous aid—a painkiller, no more and no less.

You have put forward an alternative to Hamas-Fatah polarization, heading the Independent Palestine list in 2005 elections. How has support for a third way changed in light of the ongoing conflict between Fatah and Hamas?

These movements have grown a lot, and their prospects are rising. Many Palestinians are exasperated with the polarization between Hamas and Fatah, and the silent majority is angry about this meaningless bloodshed. In addition, some in the silent majority who voted for Hamas have lost faith in it. They voted for the reform program that Hamas promised but saw that when Hamas took power it used the same methods that Fatah had used to build a political patronage structure. And even though Hamas has lost ground, Fatah has not advanced, because it failed to undertake radical reform within its ranks to address the reasons why many did not vote for it.

So I think that there are excellent opportunities for the moderate, democratic current that we are trying to represent. If it organizes itself well, this current can progress, not only because of the problems in Fatah and Hamas, but because a large segment of Palestinian society wants to support a democratic movement. 

As a leader of civil society for many years, how do you believe civil society in the West Bank and Gaza has changed and what challenges does it face now?

Palestinian civil society has grown and achieved a great deal, for example, holding democratic elections and promoting legislation such as the NGO law. The most immediate and dangerous challenge is the Fatah/Hamas rift and declaration of a state of emergency, which threaten to replace democracy with authoritarian regimes in Gaza and the West Bank that ignore the Basic Law and govern by decree. The second major challenge is for civil society to translate its strength into rejection of Hamas/Fatah polarization. Civil society should be part of a middle ground independent of the two movements, giving the Palestinian people an alternative and hope. The third challenge is for civil society to help people survive under conditions of brutal occupation, dire economic straits, and high living costs.

Salma Waheedi conducted this interview.  Paul Wulfsberg translated it from Arabic.

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Gaza: Life under Hamas Rule

Taghreed El-Khodary

Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip on June 15, governance has barely functioned. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya in a November 4 speech expressed his dissatisfaction with the paralysis afflicting the executive, judicial, and legislative institutions, accusing the Ramallah government of responsibility. Haniyya also justified the Hamas government’s taking illegal steps, even if he did not call them such, as a substitute. Legally, the Haniyya government is a caretaker government, but the law does not give it the authority to make major decisions.
The Haniyya government’s initiatives so far have focused on the security apparatus and the judiciary more than civil affairs and the economy. This is new ground for Hamas, which historically has concentrated on social work and armed resistance. In the executive branch, the Haniyya caretaker government has made a number of appointments without seeking approval from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The first decision was the appointment of a police chief, followed by directors of the government and security institutions with the ranks of colonel, general, and police chief—all awarded without consulting Abbas, legally commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Haniyya government is also making structural changes, for example turning the preventative security apparatus (whose mission had been internal security) into a police force, while an intelligence agency whose mission had been external security has taken on responsibility for internal security. 

Among the major challenges the Haniyya government faces is the paralysis of the criminal justice system due to its reliance on the police and public prosecution. After the Hamas takeover, police officers abided by Abbas’s order that they refrain from going to work in exchange for receiving their salaries. The public prosecution suspended work in the courts after the takeover given the absence of police, and has not accepted the legitimacy of the new police formed by the Gaza government. Cases of murder, assault, theft, embezzlement, and other cases have all been in limbo, a situation that pushed the Haniyya government to appoint eight prosecutors, twenty assistant prosecutors, and a new attorney general. Another step that Haniyya defended in his November 3 speech was the appointment of seven judges, thus allowing his government to form a Supreme Justice Council parallel to the Supreme Judicial Council, the highest Palestinian judicial authority.

According to Salama Basisu, deputy head of the Lawyers’ Syndicate in Gaza, “Hamas succeeded in forming the Supreme Council, but what about the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation? What about the rest of the members of the other courts necessary to make a final decision on any case?” According to Basisu, a judge earns 15,000 to 20,000 shekels a month ($4,000 to $5,000) before bonuses, with Abbas paying the salaries. This material incentive is preventing the Haniyya government from persuading independent, competent judges to work in the new courts.

As for the civil courts specializing in issues of land, real estate, and financial transactions, their previous judges are still working, though operations are at a standstill due to the lack of legal enforcement. The stoppage of the criminal and civil courts has affected 700 lawyers as well as average Palestinians with pending legal affairs. To deal only with civil cases, a Palestine Islamic Scholars Association branch was formed in every district across the Gaza Strip, each comprised of seven to eight religious scholars, a development some legal professionals and human rights organizations see as a threat to the rule of law.

Regarding other government institutions, Abbas has not issued any orders for employees not to go to work, but has called on them to respect decisions by the Fayyad government.  For the first time since March 2006, salaries are being paid regularly by Ramallah to civil as well as military employees. Thus Haniyya government decisions in the ministries have been limited to appointments. A number of Hamas members and supporters were named as directors in the health, education, religious endowments, and transportation ministries.

The impact of the siege on the economic, health, educational, and agricultural sectors remains the biggest concern for the average citizen. The prices of flour, sugar, rice, oil, meat, chicken, and fruit have all shot up 30 percent due to Israeli control over imports.  Although businessmen no longer face extortion by security officials and resistance fighters as had happened under the previous government—and are able to drive their flashy cars around the streets of Gaza City without worrying about the car thefts widespread before the Hamas takeover—the closure’s impact has hit hard. With the private sector deprived of raw materials, thousands of jobs have been lost. The widespread frustration in the closed-off Gaza Strip has contributed to the average citizen’s apathy about the Annapolis conference, as they are now only concerned with the next immediate problem coming their way.

Taghreed El-Khodary is a New York Times correspondent in the Gaza Strip.  Paul Wulfsberg translated this article from Arabic.

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West Bank: Governance since the Split

Charles Levinson

Shortly after the split between Fatah and Hamas in June 2007, Dianna Buttu, the astute young advisor to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said that watching the rival factions joust for control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was like watching bald men fight over a comb. She meant that the Palestinian government over which Fatah and Hamas are vying is so gutted, powerless, and ineffective, that it hardly seems worth fighting for.

Since the formation of the PA in 1994, Palestinian self-rule has taken two steps backward for every one step forward. During the past five months of emergency government rule in the West Bank, that pattern has continued. It has, by some measures, been a period of competent governing that has seen an infusion of cash and a renascent peace process. It has also, however, seen troubling democratic retrenchment.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has brought pragmatic, expert technocrats back into government. Many of the same faces that pushed through widely praised reforms in
2002-04 are back today, struggling to reverse the damage done during Hamas's year of learn-as-you-go governance. In their first five months in power, the technocrats have focused on restoring a semblance of law and order, including a heavy-handed crackdown on Hamas, kickstarting the West Bank economy, and easing the daily hardships of Israeli occupation through a revived peace process. At best, however, results have been mixed.

Rebuilding the Palestinian security forces, crippled during the last Intifada, remains the most daunting challenge. Popular support for the government hinges in part on the PA's ability to restore order. Moreover, Israel will not ease up its grip on the West Bank unless it believes that Palestinian security has the will and ability to fill the void. But the PA has struggled to meet the challenge. Recent years have witnessed an infusion of weapons into the West Bank, the splintering of Fatah into a web of loosely aligned militias and gangs that operate outside the control of any faction’s political hierarchy, and a growing culture of militancy in the Palestinian Territories. The Fatah-Hamas rivalry, meanwhile, created a power vacuum that allowed anarchy to flower.

The Israeli occupation has further frustrated PA attempts to restore order. Israeli travel restrictions have thwarted PA attempts to move security forces into areas where they are most needed. Security forces are also undermined by the almost daily Israeli incursions, during which the local police must disappear from the streets. These absences make police work more difficult, damage police morale and undermine security forces' credibility by making them look like collaborators. Israeli incursions also justify the ongoing presence of the gun-toting militants who are responsible for much of the anarchy in the West Bank.

On the economic front, the Fayyad government has had more success. Fatah's June divorce from Hamas allowed the PA to finally earn the tentative blessing of Israel and the United States. After convincing Israel to unfreeze Palestinian tax revenues in June, the PA has resumed paying back salaries and paying down a private sector debt estimated at $300 million. Fayyad looks on pace to make good on his promise to pay back wages and debts by year's end. The massive boost in government spending is providing a critical shot in the arm to the West Bank economy. President Bush hopes his proposed $435 million in additional aid to the PA, including $150 million in direct cash transfers, will further insure the West Bank’s economic fortunes.

Of equal importance, the PA can, for the first time in years, offer at least a glimmer of hope that a rejuvenated peace process may yet translate into quality of life improvements in the West Bank. So far, however, Palestinians have little to cheer about. The nearly 600 checkpoints, road blocks and other impediments to movement remain in place and the single greatest daily frustration for Palestinians. Israel, meanwhile, has taken a first step toward construction of a controversial settlement expansion project known as E1, which rights activists say will completely seal off Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

In addition, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dealt heavy blows to Palestinian democracy. For over a year, Abbas effectively teamed up with Israel, the United States, and the international community to undermine an elected Hamas-led Palestinian government. After the Gaza takeover, Abbas dismissed the Islamists from government and has ruled by presidential decree, and on shaky constitutional ground, ever since. The Palestinian Legislative Council—nearly half of whose members are in Israeli jails—has not passed a single law since Hamas came to power in early 2006, so there is not even a facade of legislative oversight. The PA has trampled due process, human rights, freedom of expression, and the basic rule of law in its campaign to crush Hamas in the West Bank—arresting more than one thousand Hamas members, closing down more than one hundred Islamic charities, and using force to break up demonstrations. In a recent report, Amnesty International accused the PA of torture, arbitrary arrests, and lack of judicial oversight among a host of other rights violations.

As the Israeli occupation grinds on and the Fatah-Hamas power struggle becomes more entrenched, governance and democratic benchmarks will increasingly seem a luxury. For now Palestinian leaders will be judged as trauma surgeons—by how quickly they can move from crisis to crisis, stanch the worst of the bleeding, and move on.

Charles Levinson is a journalist residing in Jerusalem.

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Palestine: A Look at the Economic Future

Mohammed Samhouri

The Palestinian economy has been in an ever-deepening crisis since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, a crisis rooted in and perpetuated by an extremely inauspicious political setting. The record of economic decline is staggering: domestic output and per capita income have plunged; poverty and unemployment have ballooned; private investment has plummeted; and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has developed a growing recurrent fiscal deficit that, along with worsening of humanitarian conditions, consumes more and more of the incoming foreign aid, leaving little for public investment.

Following Hamas’s electoral victory in January 2006, a combination of the crippling Western and Israeli-led financial squeeze and intensified restrictions on Palestinian movement has added to the Palestinian economic calamity. As a result, according to the World Bank, businesses “have closed, and large amounts of financial and human capital have fled … [with] most local capital being kept abroad or invested in real estate or short term trading activities.” In 2006 alone, according to the same World Bank report, Palestinian private investment fell by over 15 percent and businesses were operating at less than 50 percent of their capacity.

Conditions in Gaza are worse still. Five months after the Hamas takeover the coastal enclave, already burdened with high rates of poverty and unemployment, is effectively sealed off from the rest of the world. Its economy, which represents one-third of the Palestinian GDP, lies in tatters and the vast majority of Gazans now depend on foreign handouts for their basic survival.

In the occupied West Bank, the picture is also grim. The heavy presence of Israeli settlements, the construction of the separation barrier, and hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks (which totaled 561 in October 2007) have seriously fragmented the territorial and economic space of the West Bank, divided the area into isolated Palestinian enclaves, and rendered the conduct of normal business activities increasingly difficult. These limitations on Palestinian movement, which Israel imposes on security grounds, continue to represent the single most significant factor behind the Palestinian economic freefall.

Economic decline has undermined the PA’s political base and grip on power, and led to widespread lawlessness. Today, a spiraling recurrent fiscal deficit, estimated by International Monetary Fund at $1.5 billion (or 34 percent of GDP) by year end, could very well complete the circle and threaten the PA’s very existence. And with domestic sources of finance already stretched to the limit, and a cumulative stock of arrears close to $1 billion, the PA faces serious fiscal problems. Fiscal adjustment under the present conditions is likely to be politically costly, while at the same time the continued economic crisis is bound to further worsen PA fiscal position.

All this poses the question of what needs to be done, and whether the current reform-cum-security-cum-aid approach to the Palestinian economic misfortune can succeed in reversing the downward slide. In this regard, recent past can provide useful lessons. As the experience of 2003-05 has vividly shown, neither economic recovery nor institutional reform can be sustained without a supporting political environment. In fact, the whole post-Oslo Palestinian experiment shows that providing foreign aid under continued conflict conditions and political instability is not sufficient to get the economy off the ground. The implications, therefore, are clear: reviving the Palestinian economy and in the process saving the PA from a potential collapse, require an integrated strategic approach incorporating political, financial and institutional action—with work on the political front leading the way.

Fortunately, a platform for action on each one of these fronts exists on the international level: the Middle East Quartet that deals with the political questions; the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in charge of garnering financial support for the PA; and the ongoing work of Quartet representative Tony Blair on governance and institutional reforms. What seems to be dangerously lacking is the synergy between these activities, and the understanding that success on economics and reform is inextricably linked to tangible progress on the political front. Unless and until that realization sinks in, chances are that Palestine’s economy will continue to spiral downward, with unforeseen consequences.

To avoid such an outcome, there is an urgent need for the international community to go beyond the mere provision of financial aid and the continued calls for reform in Palestine. Neither development nor reform can be attained or sustained in the absence of a positive political setting. This much we already know from recent past. The need now is for a more active and sustained international engagement to facilitate and advance a serious political process that should lead, in the end, to a lasting negotiated political settlement. Only such a process can provide the essential missing ingredient needed to establish a stable, reformed, and economically viable Palestine.

Mohammed Samhouri is a Palestinian economist and a visiting senior fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.

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Palestinian Authority Reform: Role of the International Community

Keir Prince

You are building your home. But you are having a problem with the architect, who keeps demolishing parts of the house. Sometimes he feels you did not follow the blueprints, sometimes he feels you used sub-standard materials, and sometimes, even though you are sure you followed all the instructions, he just does not like the way it turned out. You are exhausted, the costs are almost incalculable and there seems to be no end in sight.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the hapless home builder, and the international community, the architect, have been applying themselves to the Palestinian institution-building project for more than fourteen years. There have been achievements but also many failures, and the project is far from complete. Now is the time to focus on the mistakes—in this case those of the international community—and in particular, the inconsistencies in its engagement.

The most obvious example is the international community’s shifting position on the degree of power that should be enjoyed by the Palestinian president versus the prime minister. During the last years of President Arafat’s leadership, the international community said that the PNA needed a strong, empowered prime minister. This position changed somewhat with the election of President Abbas upon Arafat’s death, but then reversed completely with the appointment of Hamas Prime Minister Haniyya after legislative elections that had been supported by powerful elements within the international community.

For most of the life of the PNA, the international community insisted, in the interests of transparency and prudent financial control, that all PNA revenues should be banked in a “single treasury account” (STA) under the control of the finance minister. Following the election of Hamas, however, the international community insisted on channeling money through the president’s office and the Temporary International Mechanism. Now that Salam Fayyad (admired for his integrity and managerial acumen) holds the offices of prime minister and finance minister, restoration of the STA is once again a priority.

When the Palestinian Basic Law was finally ratified in 2002, some observers in the international community were disappointed. Although satisfied that it placed real authority in the hands of the prime minister, they criticized the language as vague and open to interpretation in too many areas. Some called for the drafting of a watertight Palestinian constitution. After Hamas took control in Gaza in summer 2006, however, the international community was silent as President Abbas exploited loopholes in the Basic Law that allowed him to rule by decree and sideline the Hamas-dominated legislature.

The international community has frequently raised concerns about corruption in the PNA. Independent evidence of corruption is actually difficult to find, leaving anticorruption advocates to rely mostly on public opinion polls and hearsay. A recent assessment of the Palestinian investment climate conducted by the World Bank concluded that by regional standards “petty corruption is low, the bureaucracy is relatively efficient and financial markets are well developed.” This conclusion, of course, does not eliminate the possibility of high-level corruption on a grand scale. But tackling this kind of corruption could embarrass senior Palestinian political figures, some of whom the international community views as vital players in the peace process.

As time goes on, building PNA institutions is proving to be expensive. The cantonization of the West Bank and separation of Gaza are driving the proliferation of donor-funded governmental and non-governmental organizations and facilities needed to serve local communities. Conflict has destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure paid for by donors. The PNA payroll has continued to spiral upwards as public sector employment has been used as a tool to co-opt armed gangs and alleviate unemployment. Moreover, many PNA ministries are actually based on Gaza, which the Fayyad government can only influence indirectly since the Fatah/Hamas split.

The international community’s fluctuating positions on what might be considered rather dry institutional reform issues are primarily driven by short-term thinking and regional political calculations. Oddly enough, however, the international community now seems to have its political antenna turned off and is pushing for aggressive measures to address deeply-embedded structural problems in the economy and PNA finances. At this stage, even talking about such measures, including public sector salary cuts and dismissal of security services staff, could topple Fayyad’s government. The regional political costs of such an outcome would be enormous and immediate.

To many in the international community, Prime Minister Fayyad represents the great hope for Palestinian reform. As finance minister in previous governments, he demonstrated the ability to navigate the complex path to reform. Given sufficient time and political support (domestically and regionally), he may be able to deliver real change. It may be time for the international community to acknowledge its shortcomings, relinquish its role as would-be architect, and confine itself to helping out on the building site.

Keir Prince is an expert in governance reform and has lived and worked in Palestine since March 2005.

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Readers React

I agree with Eric Goldstein, who says in his article (October 2007) that many governments and armed groups do not appreciate the activities of non-government organizations in defending civilians at times of war. However, Arab countries cannot be accused of this based on Hizbollah’s refusal to allow the holding of the Human Rights Watch conference in Beirut. 

It must be acknowledged explicitly that both Hizbollah and Israel targeted civilians during the war. The reason—the inability of warring parties to reach one another to settle accounts directly—is clear. Hence, they resort to targeting civilians as the weakest link to exert maximum impact on the other party.

In the Palestinian case, for example, some people justify operations targeting Israeli civilians by suggesting that they are the only possible means to inflict pain on the Israeli occupation, as Palestinians do not have military means comparable to those of Israel. Israel also targets civilians in Gaza, for example, due to its inability to uproot the militias that fire rockets on Israel. To a military mentality, killing and destruction indicate victory. The practice of targeting civilians, thereby creating an illusory sense of victory, is not specific to one country or one armed group.

Hussam Ezzeddin
Palestinian journalist, Ramallah

Translated from Arabic by Salma Waheedi

Jane Kinninmont’s article (October 2007) rightly notes that it is too early to judge al-Wefaq’s participation in parliamentary politics. Kinninmont captures several important factors behind Al-Wefaq’s failure to translate its numerical strength into real political and legislative gains. These include the limits imposed by the constitution of 2002, the constraining structure of the half-elected, half-appointed parliament, and the unwillingness of the ruling family to give up any of its privileges. Additional factors can be found within al-Wefaq’s own leadership structure. Ali Salman, the group’s public leader, plays a minor role compared to that of spiritual leader Issa Qassim, whose conservative political and religious outlook sets al-Wefaq’s political priorities. Al-Wefaq’s failure to live up to its electoral promises is directly linked to Qassim’s reluctance to provoke the government. In return, the government has refrained from introducing legislation that limits the clerics’ authority, such as a personal status law regulating women’s rights within the family.

I doubt that al-Wefaq’s parliamentary performance can improve while it oscillates ineffectively between the whims and fears of its conservative mentor and the demands of its largely impoverished and fragmented constituencies.

Abdulhadi Khalaf
Professor, Department of Sociology
Lund University, Sweden

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News and Views

Palestine Data Profile

[Sources: The PNA Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, United Nations Statistics Division, UNCTAD, World Bank, Jerusalem Center for Israel Studies]


Population (2006)

3.9 million
West Bank 2.46 million
(in addition to 256,600 Israeli settlers)
Gaza 1.43 million
  Note: An additional 243,000 Palestinians and 182,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem.

Population growth
West Bank 3 percent
Gaza 3.8 percent
Percentage of population under age 15 47.6 percent
Life expectancy 73 years 73 years
Net migration rate 2.7 migrants/1,000 population

Muslim 97 percent (mostly Sunni)
Christian 3 percent (mostly Eastern Orthodox)

Adult literacy rate (2005) 92 percent
Male 97 percent
Female 89 percent
Gross enrollment ratio in basic education (2005-2006) 92.1 percent
Male 91.5 percent
Female 92.8 percent
Gross enrollment ratio in secondary education (2005-2006) 75.8 percent
Male 80.4 percent
Female 71.4 percent

Economy (2006 figures)
GDP $4.2 billion
GDP growth rate 4 percent
GNI per capita $1393
Inflation rate 4 percent
Unemployment rate 20.1 percent
Population below poverty line 56.8 percent
Gaza 79.3 percent
West Bank 49.1 percent
Imports as percentage of GDP 69.7 percent
Exports as percentage of GDP 15.7 percent
Gross capital formation (investment) as percentage of GDP 19.3 percent
Foreign direct investment as percentage of total investment 3.4 percent
External aid $739 million

International Rankings
Human Development Index Rank, UNDP (2006) 100 (out of 177 countries)
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (2005) 107 (out of 158 countries)
Freedom House Ranking (2006) Not Free
Political Rights 5, on a scale of 1(most free) to 7(least free)
Civil Liberties 5

Freedom of the Press Rank
Reporters without Borders (2007) 158 (out of 169 countries)
Freedom House (2006) 184 (out of 194 countries)

Palestine Updates

Recent Political Developments

"We must bring down this gang, which took over Gaza by force and is abusing our people," President Mahmoud Abbas declared in a November 15 speech on Palestinian television, in his first explicit call to overthrow Hamas since its June 2006 takeover of Gaza. The Palestinian leader, who has set up a separate government in the West Bank led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, previously had not gone beyond demanding that Hamas apologize for and reverse the takeover. Abbas met a number of Hamas leaders in the West Bank on November 2 for the first time since the Fatah/Hamas rift.     

Abbas’s call to bring down Hamas followed the death of at least six people and wounding of dozens at a November 11 rally in Gaza City to mark the third anniversary of the death of President Yasser Arafat. More than 200,000 people attended the rally, making it Fatah's largest show of force in Gaza to date. Witnesses say Hamas security forces opened fire on unarmed crowds after the rally turned into a protest against its takeover of Gaza. On November 12, Hamas forces rounded up more than 400 Fatah activists in Gaza and announced plans to curb public gatherings.

Meanwhile, the Israel-based peace activist group Peace Now reported on November 7 that Israel is continuing construction in dozens of settlements in the West Bank. According to Peace Now, there is ongoing construction in 88 of 150 of the settlements authorized by the Israeli government, in addition to the building of permanent structures in 34 unauthorized settlement outposts. Click here for more information.

Legislative Updates

On June 14, 2006, President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency, dismissed the Hamas government headed by Ismail Haniyya, appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister, and suspended Articles 65-67 and 79 of the Basic Law that require a new government to secure a vote of confidence from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) before taking office. The PLC has been unable to convene since late 2006 as a result of Israel's detention of many Hamas PLC members and travel restrictions on other members.  In a November 4 speech, Haniyya said that Hamas would obtain written authorization by imprisoned PNC members in order to hold a session soon. 

In the absence of the PLC, President Abbas decreed changes to the electoral law that would favor Fatah in September 2007. Under the new law (click here for the text in English and here for Arabic), Palestinians will vote solely for party lists. In the 2006 elections, half the seats were chosen by national party lists and the other half by district; Hamas was particularly successful in districts. The decree also requires all electoral candidates to recognize the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Hamas rejected the amendments as illegal. According to the Palestinian Basic Law, the PLC must review and can abrogate legislative decrees by the president made when the PLC was not in session.

Freedom of the Press

Since their split in June 2006, Fatah and Hamas have both cracked down on journalists affiliated with or perceived to support the other party. In Gaza, international NGOs documented more than nine assaults and twenty-one arrests of journalists. On October 31, Hamas announced that all journalists in Gaza must obtain a license from the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information. In September 2007, it dissolved the Gaza branch of the Palestinian Journalists Union. Hamas also announced plans to implement a 1995 press law under which journalists may be imprisoned for up to six months and newspapers may be closed for publishing reports that “jeopardize national unity or incite crime, hatred, division, or sectarian dissention.”

Hamas security forces harassed journalists covering demonstrations in the Gaza Strip marking the third anniversary of President Yasser Arafat’s death on November 11.  Sami Abou Salem of the WAFA news agency was arrested on November 11 as he was covering a pro-Fatah student rally in the Jabalia refugee camp north of Gaza City. On November 12, Hamas forces raided the home of WAFA director Mohammed al-Sharafi and freelance journalist Iyad al-Khabbaz.  Two correspondents of al-Hayat al-Jadida, Hossam al-Maghni and Mouffek Mattar, were detained for several hours for covering pro-Fatah rallies.

In the West Bank, the pro-Fatah Preventive Security Services arrested on November 5 journalist Alaa al-Titi and cameraman Ossayd Amarneh of al-Aqsa TV after they met family members of a Hamas PLC member.  They face charges of “disseminating false information about the Palestinian Authority.” On November 8, Moutaz al-Kurdi, head of the TV station al-Amal, was arrested in Hebron for broadcasting a November 4 speech by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyya. Click here for more information.

Arab Countries: New Corruption Index

Arab Parliamentarians Against Corruption (ARPAC) announced on November 5 plans to set up an index to measure the prevalence and cost of corruption in Arab countries.  According to ARPAC, the index is the core of an Arab parliamentarian centre for data against corruption. The organization also announced that it will publish detailed studies of corruption in every Arab country. 

Egypt: NDP Conference; Crackdown on Journalists; Ibrahim’s Trial

Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) held its ninth General Conference on November 3-7, an event dominated by internal party affairs rather than significant policy initiatives. The main event was the creation of a forty-five-member Supreme Council (hay’ah ‘ulya), including a few members of the party’s old guard but more of the new guard surrounding Gamal Mubarak, to nominate the party’s next presidential candidate.  The conference followed several months of internal NDP elections throughout the country, during which the new guard reportedly recruited many supporters. The more than 6,000 NDP members present voted to keep 79-year old President Hosni Mubarak as chairman. Secretary General Safwat al-Sharif retained his position, as did several Assistant Secretaries, including Gamal Mubarak. Click here for details.

A Cairo court convicted two police officers on November 5 for beating and raping a prisoner, and sentenced them to three years in prison. The case has received wide public attention after a video of the rape was widely circulated over the internet. Click here for details. In a related development, another Egyptian man died on November 4 after being tortured for three days while in police custody for suspected drug use. The Egyptian Prosecutor General has ordered an official inquiry. Under Egyptian law, the sentence for torturing a prisoner ranges between three and fifteen years in prison.

A criminal court in the Assiut Province convicted Anwar al-Hawari, editor of al-Wafd opposition newspaper, chairman Mahmoud Abaza, and reporter Younis Darwish on October 27 of “publishing false news,” and sentenced the three men to one month in prison. The newspaper had published an article in March 2007 that accused two NDP members of obtaining land illegally from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. This ruling is the latest in a government crack-down on independent and opposition journalists. Since September 2007, nine have received prison sentences for press-related offenses. Click here for details.

The Southern Cairo Public Prosecutor has declared that Saad Eddin Ibrahim, civil society activist and president of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, will be tried in absentia on several charges brought against him by pro-government politicians and lawyers. Ibrahim is charged with harming Egypt’s interests and economy by calling on the United States to place conditions on military aid . Ibrahim, aged 68, suffered partial paralysis and other health problems during his imprisonment in 2000-03 and is currently in voluntary exile. He faces up to three years in prison in each of the four new cases, which will be heard on November 8, 18 , 20, and December 1.

Jordan: Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

Elections for the Jordanian Chamber of Deputies will be held on November 20, with 984 candidates running in forty-five districts. According to the Civil Status and Passports Department, 2,455,000 citizens are eligible to vote. Comprised of 110 seats, the Parliament includes six seats reserved for women, nine for Christians, and three for the Circassian and Chechen minorities. The 2001 Elections Law permits candidates and their representatives to monitor elections inside polling centers and during vote counting. Independent observers and non-government organizations are allowed to “observe” but not “monitor” elections, which means they are not allowed to enter voting stations or monitor voter registration or vote counting. Jordan held its last legislative election in June 2003, with a participation rate of 58.8 percent.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF), Jordan's largest political party, dismissed five of its members on October 30, after they announced their intention to run as independents. The development comes against the backdrop of a controversy that surfaced last month over the party's official list of twenty-two candidates. Party cadres have disputed the selection process, which they said eliminated strong candidates. Click here for more information.

Lebanon: Presidential Vote Delayed

A parliamentary session to elect a new president has been postponed for the third time until November 21. Two sessions in September and October were postponed due to the lack of consensus between the western-backed ruling majority and the Hizbollah-led opposition supported by Syria. Lebanon's president, a Maronite Christian by convention, is elected by MPs rather than by popular suffrage. Current President Emile Lahoud is due to step down on November 24. Leading presidential candidates include Nasib Lahoud, Boutrous Harb, Robert Ghanim, Jean Obeid, and Michel Aoun, the opposition’s candidate.

Meanwhile, alleged maneuvers by thousands of Hizbollah guerrillas near Israel's border in early November have heightened tensions in Lebanon and prompted a probe by the UN command in the region.

Syria: Opposition Leader Faces Life in Prison; Activist Arrested

A Damascus criminal court adjourned a hearing in the case of Faeq al-Mir, a leader of the leftist People’s Democratic Party, until November 28. Al-Mir is on trial for contacting Elias Atallah, the head of the Democratic Left party in Lebanon and a leader of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian March 14 Movement. He was charged last March with “undertaking acts that weaken national sentiment” during times of conflict and “communicating with a foreign country to incite it to initiate aggression against Syria.” The last charge carries a potential life sentence, or a death penalty, if an aggression against Syria is initiated. Click here for more information.

Syrian police used force to suppress a peaceful demonstration on November 2 organized by the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) in the towns of Qamishli and Ain al-Arab.  Hundred of Syrian Kurds had gathered to protest of the Turkish military threats to invade Northern Iraq. One man was killed and dozens injured when police forces used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the demonstrators. A number of leading PYD members were arrested, including Isa Hasso, Jamil Abu Adel, and Abbas Abu Rashu.

Syrian opposition activist Jihadeddin al-Musuti was arrested at Damascus airport on November 1 as he was departing for Cairo for a human rights meeting. Al-Musuti has spent over eleven years in Syrian jails as a political detainee in the past.

Kuwait: Cabinet Reshuffle

Kuwait’s Minister of Oil, Bader al-Humaidhi, resigned on November 5 after only eight days in office. Parliamentarians, critical of his performance previously as Finance Minister, strongly opposed his appointment. Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah had changed nine of his fifteen-member cabinet on October 28 in the second cabinet reshuffle in seven months. Since February 2006, Kuwait has had three governments and a major cabinet reshuffle, amid a government-parliament stand-off that has virtually paralyzed decision-making in the country. Click here for the new cabinet line-up in Arabic.

Oman: Shura Election Results

Omanis voted on October 27 to elect their representatives in the eighty-four member Shura Council. An estimated 388,000 people in sixty-one districts registered to vote, out of a total population of three million. The government estimated voter turnout at 63 percent, down from 74 percent in 2003. No female member was elected, despite a record high of twenty-one women among a total of 631 candidates. The Shura Council, which serves a four-year term, may question ministers and advise the government on economic and social issues, but has no legislative power and no say in defense, internal security, or foreign policy. Click here for a list of new Shura Council members in Arabic.

Saudi Arabia: Activist Jailed; Curricula to Be Posted Online

A Riyadh court convicted activists Abdullah al-Hamid and Isa al-Hamid on November 7 of “violating a security cordon” and “instigating a public demonstration,” and sentenced them four and six months in prison, respectively. The two men were arrested in July in connection with a peaceful demonstration by a group of women against their relatives’ prolonged detention without trial. Click here for more information.

Saudi Arabian Education Minister Abdullah al-Obeid announced November 5 that all textbooks taught in Saudi Arabia’s schools will be made available on the ministry’s website soon. Al-Obeid stated that all critics who had been spreading “misleading information” about the Saudi curriculum will be able to visit the website to find out the truth. Click here for the ministry’s website.

Bahrain: Human Rights Authority; Journalists on Trial; Marriage Age Set

The cabinet announced on November 11 the creation of a National Human Rights Authority. The government authority will be responsible for setting relevant policies, addressing human rights violations, and communicating with international organizations and non-government organizations.

The High Criminal Court convicted al-Saheefa journalists Saleh al-Amm, Muath al-Meshari, and Fareed al-Shayeb on October 21 of libel and ordered them to pay 250 Bahraini dinars (U.S. $665) each. The banned electronic newspaper had published an article criticizing the management of an elderly care center. In a separate case, the Criminal Court of Appeals convicted on October 28 journalist Hisham al-Zayani and the editor-in-chief of Akhbar al-Khaleej Newspaper, Anwar Abdulrahman, of libel against the President of Arabian Gulf University, Rafia Ghabbash. The two men were fined 1,000 Bahraini dinars ($2,650) each. According to the Bahrain Journalists Society, thirty-two libel cases were brought against journalists in 2007. Click here for more information.

The government issued an order setting the marriage age at fifteen for women and eighteen for men. Both Sunni Islamists and the Shi’i Islamic Scholars Council rejected the decision as un-Islamic. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), the average marriage age in Bahrain is twenty-eight for men and twenty-five for women. 

UAE: New Investment Laws; Foreign Workers Strike

Dubai’s Department of Economic Development announced on November 4 that it will revise investment regulations to attract more local and foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sector. Dubai aims to increase the industrial sector’s GDP contribution from 17 percent to 20-25 percent over the next five years.

A week-long labor strike by thousands of foreign construction workers in Dubai was called off on November 2 following government threats of deportation. Workers had demanded higher wages and improved working conditions. Upon ending the strike, the chief of Dubai's police pledged to prosecute any employers not meeting health and safety standards at the work place. Approximately 700,000 South Asians work in the construction industry in Dubai, where labor strikes and trade unions are illegal.

Yemen: Terror Convictions

A Yemeni court convicted thirty-two suspected members of al-Qaeda on November 7 of planning attacks on oil and gas installations in the country, sentencing them to prison terms of up to fifteen years. Four others were acquitted. Six of those convicted remain at large and were tried in absentia. The trial opened in March and authorities did not disclose when or how they were arrested. Three suspects claimed to have been tortured and forced to sign confessions.

: Critical Reports; Islamists Released; Hunger Strikes

Amnesty International published a briefing on November 2 criticizing the human rights situation in Tunisia in the wake of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's twentieth anniversary in power. According to the briefing, President Ben Ali’s rule has been marred by gross human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trials, harassment of activists, and limitations on freedom of expression and association.  Reporters without Borders also issued a statement on November 5 criticizing the regime’s limitation of press freedom, pointing to cases of harassment of journalists, censorship of books and internet sites, and banning of foreign publications.

Tunisian authorities released thirty members of the banned Islamist al-Nahda Party from prison on November 5. Those released include former head of al-Nahda, Sheikh al-Habib al-Louz, and four other leading members. Al-Nahda estimates that seventy of its members remain in prison. The Tunisian government began a gradual process of releasing the prisoners a year ago. The majority of al-Nahda prisoners were sentenced in the early 1990s by military courts on charges of terrorism and conspiracy against the state. 

Security forces in the city of Safakis arrested six men on October 25 for unauthorized use of CDs and multimedia kits. No further information was provided on the reasons for the arrests. Tunisian security officers also arrested on October 26 Jihan Daly, a second year high school student, and charged her with collecting donations illegally and funding terrorist groups. Daly was detained twice during the past two years for wearing the veil.

Lawyer and activist Muhammad al-Nouri and journalist Salim Boukhdeir began a hunger strike November 1 to protest government restrictions on the movement of political and human rights activists. Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Mia al-Gariby and Director of the party’s al-Mawakif newspaper Nejib Chebbi ended a month-long hunger strike on October 20. The two staged the strike after a court ordered the eviction of al-Mawkif and PDP from their offices. Click here for more information.

Algeria: Crackdown on Journalists; Censorship of Book Fair

Noureddine Boukraa, bureau chief of the daily newspaper Ennahar, was detained on November 12 and charged with libel against a local businessman. The case referred to an article Bourkaa had written in 2005 accusing the businessman of bribing judges. Click here for more information.

A Djelfa Province court convicted Dhif Talal, correspondent for the Arabic-language newspaper al-Fadjr, of defamation on October 15 for writing an article that criticized poor management in the local Ministry of Agriculture. Talal was sentenced to six months in prison. Ouahid Oussama, correspondent at the daily Arabic-language newspaper al-Bilad, was summoned to appear before the court on November 19. Oussama faces defamation charges for reporting on the failures of the education system in Djelfa.  Another Djelfa journalist, Hafnaoui Ghoul of al-Youm, was reportedly harassed by local authorities for his critical reporting. Click here for more information.

Algerian authorities banned nearly 1,200 books from the 12th Annual Algiers International Book Fair, which took place from October 31 to November 9 with the participation of some 600 publishers from twenty-seven countries. According to the fair’s supervisory committee, 90 percent of the banned books promoted extremist ideologies and terrorism, a claim denied by publishers. Under the fair's 2003 statute, books “supporting terrorism or racism, harming national and territorial unity, or harming public morals, God, or the prophets” may not be displayed.

Morocco: Prison Sentence for News Agency Director

A Casablanca court sentenced AIC Press Agency Director Mourad Bourja to two months in prison on October 30 for “disrespecting an agent of the state in the exercise of his duties.” The court also ordered Bourja to pay 4,500 dirhams (U.S. $590) in fines and damages. Bourja was arrested on June 28 during an argument with a policeman outside the Spanish consulate. Click here for details.

Mauritania: Violent Protests; Journalist Trial; First Slavery Prosecution

Violent demonstrations have broken out in several Mauritanian cities since the beginning of November in protest of the rising prices of basic staples such as flour, sugar, electricity, and water.   At least two demonstrators died of bullet wounds in the towns of Kankossa and Diguenni after police used force to disperse the protests. The cabinet announced on November 9 that it will introduce temporary food subsidies over the next few months.

Abdel Fattah Ould Abeidna, managing editor of al-Aqsa opposition newspaper, was convicted on November 8 under article 348 of the Criminal Code for “publishing false news” about a local businessman’s alleged involvement in drug trafficking. Ould Abeidna was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay 300,050,000 ouguiyas (U.S. $1.2 million) in fines and damages. Click here for more information.   

In the first slavery-related prosecution in Mauritania, two Mauritanians were arrested in the town of Guerrou on October 29 for treating two children as slaves. The suspects were charged with infringing on children's rights and depriving them of a right to education.   Slavery has been banned in Mauritania since 1981, but it was not established as a crime punishable by imprisonment until August 2007. Click here for more information.

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Upcoming Political Events

  • Jordan: Legislative elections, November 20, 2007
  • Lebanon: Parliamentary session to elect president, November 21, 2007
  • Middle East international meeting, Annapolis MD, November 2007 (tentative)
  • Algeria: Municipal elections, November 29, 2007

Views from the Arab Media

The upcoming Middle East international meeting and the peace negotiations with Israel have been the subject of heated debate in the Palestinian press:

    • Hafez al-Barghouti, editor of al-Hayat al-Jadida, writes in a November 7 editorial that Palestinians must go to Annapolis with clear goals. He contends that the United States seems serious in pushing for peace, but warns that Israel may try to steer the discussion toward side issues such as releasing prisoners and removing barriers.
    • In a November 5 article in al-Quds, Palestinian MP and Secretary General of the Socialist Palestinian People’s Party Bassam al-Salhi argues that uniting the Palestinian territories and resolving the refugee crisis are pre-requisites for reaching a peace settlement. He warns that Israel is not willing to address those fundamental Palestinian concerns, yet asks Palestinian leaders to make concessions against the interests of their people.
    • The Palestinian Authority must reform itself and reach an agreement with Hamas and other Palestinian factions in order to regain its legitimacy, argues independent Palestinian MP Rawya Rashad al-Shawwa in a November 2 article in al-Quds.  She warns that the Palestinian people will not accept an agreement with Israel that is not endorsed by a unity government.
    • In an October 28 article in al-Ayyam, Palestinian columnist Ali Jaradat expresses skepticism about the U.S. role in promoting peace. He points to the contradiction between the U.S. rhetoric of Israeli-Palestinian peace and its rhetoric of war against Syria and Iran. He concludes that the United States is only promoting Israeli interests with little regard for Palestinian suffering.

    Other Arab media also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process:

    • In a November 7 article in Lebanon’s pro-opposition al-Akhbar, Jordanian writer Hussam Kanafani contends that time is too short for the Palestinians and the Israelis to agree on an agenda for the international meeting, rendering it worthless.  He adds that the real aim of the conference is for the United States to cement an “alliance of the weak” in preparation for a war against Iran. 
    • It is unlikely that any agreement will be reached at Annapolis in light of Israel’s unwillingness to compromise and the U.S. administration’s weakness and inability to influence its allies, argues Egyptian writer Hassan Nafea in his November 4 article in al-Masry al-Youm.
    • In an October 29 article in Qatar’s al-Watan, Sudanese columnist Omar Omrabi accuses the Palestinian Authority of conspiring with Israel against the Palestinian resistance. He adds that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are doomed to fail, as Israel will continue to demand that Abbas eliminates the Palestinian resistance, which both the Israelis and the Palestinian know is unachievable.
    • The October 31 episode of al-Jazeera’s “Ma wara’ al-khabar” (Behind the News) discussed Israeli threats of a military strike on Gaza and their implications for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Illan University in Israel asserted that it is within Israel’s right to use military force to defend itself, in light of Hamas’s failure to show willingness to work towards peace. Editor of al-Quds al-Arabi Abdul Bari Atwan argued that before asking for peace and security, Israel must first end its occupation, dismantle the settlements, and end its violations of Palestinian human rights.

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          Read On

          Below is a review of major publications on Palestine from 2006-7.

          Publications on prospects for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations include:

          • In “Israeli Policy towards the Occupied Palestinian Territories: The Economic Dimension, 1967-2007,” Arie Arnon argues that since 1967, Israeli policies have  aimed at preventing the division of Palestine into two states and two economics, while at the same time thwarting the establishment of a single political and economic entity (Middle East Journal, vol. 6, no. 4, Autumn 2007, 573-95).
          • Policies of the United States, the UN, the EU and Russia have contributed materially to a possibly irreversible failure of the Palestinian Authority, according to Yezid Sayegh in “Inducing a Failed State in Palestine” (Survival, vol. 49, no. 3, September 2007, 7-39).
          • Although the obstacles to international intervention in Gaza remain formidable, the United States and the international community can encourage Egyptian and other Arab and Muslim mediators, as well as Israel, to work together on the possible creation of an international force, argues Scott Lasensky in “International Intervention in Gaza: Options and Obstacles” (United States Institute of Peace Briefing, June 2007).
          • The international community should stop pretending there is a viable peace process leading to a two-state solution, contends Nathan Brown in “The Peace Process Has No Clothes” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Web Commentary, June 14, 2007). Click here for Arabic.
          • In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter argues that there can be no lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians as long as Israel continues to violate international agreements. Carter calls for a proactive U.S. government role in achieving a just agreement. (New York: Simon and Schuster, November 2006).

          Works on inter-Palestinian politics include:

          • A recent International Crisis Group report argues that a new Fatah-Hamas power-sharing deal is a pre-requisite for sustainable peace and security in Palestine (“After Gaza,” Middle East Report no. 68, August 2, 2007).
          • With Hamas's takeover of Gaza, the accepted rules of the game for Palestinian politics have been lost, making it almost impossible to hold new elections or to restore social peace ("Hamas Coup in Gaza," Strategic Comments, vol. 13, no. 5, June 2007).
          • The overwhelming parliamentary endorsement of the Palestinian unity government belies the many internal and cross-factional tensions that will ultimately undercut the current Fatah-Hamas alliance, argues Mohammad Yaghi in “How Long Can the Palestinian Unity Government Last?” (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Watch no. 1219, April 4, 2007).
          • Neither Fatah nor Hamas can defeat one another and both movements will have to show greater flexibility and humility in order to resolve the internal Palestinian political crisis, concludes an International Crisis Group Report (“After Mecca: Engaging Hamas,” Middle East Report no. 62, February 28, 2007).
          • In “Requiem for Palestinian Reform: Clear Lessons from a Troubled Record,” Nathan Brown examines the successful establishment of democratic reforms in Palestine from 2002 to 2006, the changing nature of international support for reform following Hamas's 2006 electoral victory, and lessons for the Arab and international community on the failure of democratic reform (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Paper no. 81, February 2007). Click here for Arabic.

          Recent publications on Hamas include:

          • According to Menachem Klein in “Hamas in Power,” Hamas’s Islamist ideology has not prevented it from taking political positions that contradict its fundamental creed (Middle East Journal, vol. 61, no. 3, Summer 2007).
          • Hamas faces the dual challenge of maintaining its religious-based legitimacy while trying to find flexible interpretations of its ideology to allow for its participation in the peace process, according to Shai Gruber in “Hamas: Pragmatic Ideology” (Al-Nakhla: The Fletcher School Journal for Issues Related to Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization, Tufts University, Spring 2007)
          • Fatah's defeats on the ground enabled Hamas to score most of the gains from the Mecca accord, contends Mohammad Yaghi in “Hamas's Victory: From Gaza to Mecca” (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Watch no. 1200, February 16, 2007).
          • A year after Hamas's victory at the polls, the movement retains a high level of public support in Palestine, while its political rival Fatah has not even begun to unify or reform itself after last year's defeat (Mohammad Yaghi, “Palestinian Public Opinion a Year after Hamas's Victory,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Watch no. 1191, January 30, 2007,).
          • Rather than being an obstacle to peace, support for Hamas is a symptom of the Palestinian Authority’s lack of sovereignty and its complete dependence on Israel, argues Mandy Turner in “Building Democracy in Palestine: Liberal Peace Theory and the Election of Hamas” (Democratization, vol. 13, no. 5, December 2006).
          • In Hamas: A Beginner's Guide, Khaled Hroub explains the reasons for Hamas's electoral success and provides an overview of the movement's attitudes toward Israel and its grassroots activities (London: Pluto Press, August 2006).

           Recent works on refugee affairs include:

          • In “Problematizing a Palestinian Diaspora,” Julie Peteet argues that the core issue informing the identity of the Palestinian diaspora is not conditions of the departure but denial of an internationally recognized right of return (International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 39, no. 4, November 2007, 627-46).

          Publications on human rights and humanitarian issues include:

          • In “Notes from the Field: Return to the Ruin that is Gaza,” Jennifer Loewenstein examines the devastating economic and social impacts of Israel’s military siege on Gaza following Hamas’s 2006 election victory (Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 36, issue 143, Spring 2007).

          Two new publications highlight reform-related developments in specific Arab countries:

          • In “Lions Tamed? An Inquiry into the Causes of De-Radicalization of Armed Islamic Movements: The case of the Egyptian Islamic Group,” Omar Ashour cites state repression, social interaction, selective inducement, and leadership as possible causes behind the de-radicalization of the Islamic Group in Egypt (Middle East Journal, vol. 6, no. 4, Autumn 2007, 596-625).

           Several recent publications address human rights and other freedoms in Arab countries:

          • Reporters Without Borders released its 2007 World Press Freedom Index, which ranks press freedom in 169 countries, from 1 (most free) to 169 (least free).  The Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Iraq rank near the bottom of the list, while Mauritania, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates rank the highest among Arab countries. Click here for Arabic.
          • Arab Election Watch released it he October 2007 issue of the Election Observer Bulletin, which includes analysis of past and upcoming elections and electoral laws in Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, and Jordan. Click here for Arabic.
          • “Al-Taqrir al-fasli al-thani lil-hurriyat al-academia fi al-‘alam al-‘arabi: tammuz, ‘ab, september 2007” (Report of Academic Freedoms in the Arab World: July, August, and September 2007), published by the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, documents limitations and violations of academic freedoms in Arab universities (October 2007). Click here for Arabic.
          • A recent report by the International Federation of Human Rights emphasizes the persistence of grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law in Darfur and the sub-region of Sudan (“We Want Truth, We Want Justice,” International Federation of Human Rights Fact-Finding Mission Report, October 25, 2007).

          New publications discussing economic reform in Arab countries include:

          • In Rebuilding Devastated Economies in the Middle East, several experts analyze the economic consequences of political reforms and the obstacles to economic development in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Algeria (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, October 2007).
          • Economic reform in Egypt has not been fully effective due to the lack of public support, failure to foster a competitive business environment, and the absence of dynamic and transparent institutions, according to Sufyan Alissa in “The Political Economy of Reform in Egypt: Understanding the Role of Institutions” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Middle East Center Paper no. 5, October 2007). Click here for Arabic.
          • The World Economic Forum's scenario study, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the World: Scenarios to 2025,” explores potential economic, environmental, political, and social shifts in Saudi Arabic over the next twenty years and presents three possible future scenarios: Oasis, Sandstorm and the Fertile Gulf.
          • According to the International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook, policy makers in Arab countries should calibrate the speed of implementing investment and social projects to the capacity of their economies, while improving public expenditure management and strengthening market mechanisms to control inflation (October 2007). Click here for Arabic.

          Other new publications address the impact of outside powers on the region:

          • The United States should take steps to moderate the behavior of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and curb its sectarian practices, according to a new International Crisis Group report (“Shiite Politics in Iraq: The Role of the Supreme Council,” Middle East Report no. 70, November 15, 2007).  
          • In the aftermath of the Iraq war, the United States needs to acknowledge Iran’s position of strength and find an overlap of U.S. and Iranian interests to foster regional cooperation, conclude Ted Galen Carpenter and Malou Innocent in “The Iraq War and Iranian Power” (Survival, vol. 49, no.4, December 2007, 67-82).
          • In “On the Consequences of Failure in Iraq,” Christopher Fettweis argues that the United States could pull out of Iraq without much risk to itself, its allies or the region (Survival, vol. 49, no.4, December 2007, 83-98).
          • In “Conflict and Cooperation in the Persian Gulf: The Interregional Order and US Policy,” Henner Furtig concludes that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has imposed a bilateral power structure in which the United States and Iran struggle for regional domination (Middle East Journal, vol. 6, no. 4, Autumn 2007, 627-40).
          • The October 2007 issue of al-Siyassa al-dawliya (International Politics), published by the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, analyzes political developments in Palestine, Iraq, and Pakistan, and includes a special report on Russian foreign policies. Click here for Arabic.


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