Glenn Robinson: Authoritarianism and Succession in Palestine

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GLENN ROBINSON: AUTHORITARIANISM AND SUCCESSION IN PALESTINE

On Oct. 19, the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine hosted Glenn E. Robinson, research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC-Berkeley and professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He began by praising the center as "one of the few places to provide an alternative view of events in the Middle East," saying that the organization understood better than most the issues surrounding the recent clashes in that region. Robinson wasn't surprised by the intensity of recent Middle East outbursts since, he said, political violence was inherent in the system being put in place.

The audience gasped when Robinson read the first page of an article he wrote in June for the Washington Quarterly, which eerily predicted the upheaval of the past months in the Middle East. Underlying his analysis was the argument that as long as Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements are hegemonic--a term Robinson used to signify a vast imbalance of power--unrest and instability will remain a certainty. Authoritarianism is the result of pressure on the government to clamp down on this unrest, Robinson argued.

He then discussed six factors of authoritarianism and succession in Palestine. First, there is no clear successor. The method of selecting a successor is uncertain, since Arafat never signed the law calling for elections. In May of 1999 the institutions that would have enforced these laws expired, so technically they have no authority, although Robinson noted that people "will pretend" they do.

The second consideration of succession is timing. Robinson identified three windows of opportunity when succession might occur. The first is from now until statehood is declared. This would be a reasonably smooth succession, according to Robinson. The second window is between the declaration of statehood and general elections, a time-span of probably less than a year. That will be the most uncertain period, Robinson predicted, with power-grabbing most likely to take place. The third window of opportunity for succession is the post-statehood, post-election period, which should transfer power rather smoothly with laws and processes in place.

The third factor of authoritarianism and succession in Palestine, Robinson continued, is the "cleavage" between insiders (West Bank/Gaza) and outsiders (people who returned after Oslo). …