The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building

The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building

The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building

The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building


This book is a comprehensive overview and analysis of the Palestinians' travail as they move from revolutionary movement to state. Barry Rubin outlines the difficulties in the transition now under way arising from Palestinian history, society, and diplomatic agreements. He writes about the search for a national identity, the choice of an economic system, and the structure of government.

Rubin finds the political system interestingly distinctive--it appears to be a pluralist dictatorship. There are free elections, multiple parties, and some latitude in civil liberties. Yet there is a relatively unrestrained chief executive and arbitrariness in applying the law because of restraints on freedom. The new ruling elite is a complex mixture of veteran revolutionaries, heirs to large and wealthy families, professional soldiers, technocrats, and Islamic clerics.

Beyond explaining how the executive and legislative branches work, Rubin factors in the role of public opinion in the peace process, the place of nongovernmental institutions, opposition movements, and the Palestinian Authority's foreign relations--including Palestinian views and interactions with the Arab world, Israel, and the United States.

This book is drawn from documents in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, as well as interviews and direct observations. Rubin finds that, overall, the positive aspects of the Palestinian Authority outweigh the negative, and he foresees the establishment of a Palestinian state. His charting of the triumphs and difficulties of this state-in-the-making helps predict and explain future dramatic developments in the Middle East.


This book’s subject is the Palestinian Authority (PA) phase of Palestinian political history, a transitional era between the revolutionary movement and the achievement of an independent state. It analyzes the PA’s structure as a governmental institution; the dynamics of Palestinian state-building; the new Palestinian political elite; and the PA’s relationship with foreign governments, the opposition, and its own people.

The study is part of a long-term research project on this subject. I dealt with some aspects of the pre-1948 era of Palestinian politics in an earlier book, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, while the second, 1948– 1993, era of Palestinian politics I covered more comprehensively in Revolution Until Victory? the Politics and History of the plo.

The focus of the current study is on post-1993 Palestinian politics, though obviously what went before remains important and influential. Since the book concentrates on the areas where the pa ruled, it deals only briefly with East Jerusalem; neither does it analyze the complex details of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the peace process or Israeli policy and debates—subjects covered in many other studies. These are worthy topics that are indeed interconnected with this book’s subject. But to include these matters, which have been written about far more extensively than the issues which preoccupy me here, would reduce the space for considering the PA’s composition, history, and so on. the lack of discussion of the Jerusalem issue—as with the limited amount of space spent on several other points—is not intended in any way as a political statement on that question.

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