David Schenker, research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is the author of a forthcoming monograph about the Palestinian Legislative Council.
"We accept Arab countries as they are."
A Ramallah cab driver told me in February 1999 that during the intifada (revolt against Israel) he had been imprisoned in Israeli jails for two years for scribbling graffiti and stone throwing. He was very excited by the prospect of Palestinian self-rule in 1994, but five years of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had deeply disheartened him. He then enumerated its most glaring deficits, in particular the corruption, nepotism, and thuggish security forces and railed against the stealing of foreign assistance money by corrupt ministers. He complained that life in the PA was practically intolerable and concluded with a flourish: Things are so bad that one day, "God willing, the Israelis will eventually reoccupy PA territory. Even the Israelis," he added, "would be a lot better than the PA."
During a recent trip to the PA, I heard variants of this same bizarre but illustrative anecdote from Palestinian shopkeepers, journalists, and officials. More rhetorical than programmatic (few Palestinians really want an Israeli reoccupation), it represents a distress call for a more accountable, law-abiding, and democratic Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinians are today more cynical and less optimistic than they were prior to self-rule. Exactly why are they so upset? Because the PA today is a hybrid of sorts, in which Israeli-style freedoms exist within the framework of an authoritarian Palestinian political system. While the authoritarian character of the Palestinian governance in some ways resembles that of other Arab governments, the more liberal aspects of the society undermine the foundations on which the PA is based. Its internal contradictions of freedom and autocracy make the PA inherently unstable. In this regard, Palestinian government is unlike that of any Arab state.
What follows is a brief overview of this duality, focusing on institutions (the Palestinian legislature), the workings of these institutions (how rule of law has been implemented), and efforts to improve dysfunctions in Palestinian institutions (civil service reform). If these three issues lead to a grim picture, a fourth topic—freedom of the press—is the wildcard in Palestinian politics.
On March 7, 1999, Palestinians celebrated their first Democracy Day, kicking off a week-long festival of democratic achievements and institutions of the PA, and specifically of its parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The events, funded by the PA and promoted by the PLC, were front-page news. In a surreal opening ceremony, athletes carried a symbolic torch of democracy from the Palestinian legislature in Al-Bireh to the government building in Ramallah.2 The flame passed through the dusty and largely empty streets of the West Bank towns with little notice. As this event symbolically suggests, the torch of democracy does not appear to be burning very brightly in the PA.
Relations between Yasir Arafat and the PLC have been problematic since the latter's establishment in January 1996. From the beginning, the legislature passed laws that the executive ignored. To stem pervasive abuses of power, the PLC tried to establish a separation of powers, to little effect. In May 1996, the legislature began drafting the Basic Law to define the balance of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities.3 This passed the PLC in October 1997 and should have become law within thirty days.4 But Arafat has refused to sign it and his executive authority has continued to dominate, control, or ignore the other branches of government with impunity.
In March 1999, minister of parliamentary affairs Nabil Amru described the previous PLC term as a kind of democratic struggle between the legislative and executive authorities.5 It is easy to see why; five months after it was due, the PA budget had still not been submitted to the PLC by the ministry of finance—prompting some members to call for a vote of no-confidence.6 Despite occasional calls for votes of no confidence and an occasional questioning of an official from the executive authority, the PLC has consistently lacked the will to exercise its limited influence over the executive authority. Perhaps this is because sixty-six of the eighty-eight elected PLC members belong to Fatah—the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) faction Arafat most directly controls. Many PLC members complain that the PLC has been marginalized by Arafat and has little effect on the implementation of rule of law in Palestinian society.
Fatah's dominant representation has led to a popular perception that PLC members have been co-opted by the executive branch, an impression confirmed for many Palestinians by what occurred following the 1997 issuance of the PLC Special Committee Report on corruption. 7 The report singled out several PLC members and cabinet ministers for discipline but not a single minister was fired. 8 Instead, Arafat offered ministries to three of the committee members, who accepted the positions and subsequently voted to endorse the newly constituted and enlarged cabinet—which included all those previously cited for corruption. According to one account, Arafat chose his new cabinet according to one criterion: ensuring that it would obtain the legislature's approval. Fatah members of the PLC who were seen as active and popular were dubbed candidates for a ministerial post.9 This vote was a defining moment for the PLC. In a recent survey, nearly half of the Palestinians surveyed described the PLC as corrupt.10
The extent to which Palestinians have little or no knowledge of the leading political figures in the PA is striking. In an informal survey of fifteen Palestinian teenagers in Nablus, every one of them could identify Mayor Ghassan Shak‘a, but only one or two could identify PLC speaker Abu'l-‘Ala. For Palestinians not to recognize Abu'l-‘Ala—the architect of the Oslo accords, a longtime high-ranking PLO functionary, and current speaker of the PLC—is truly remarkable and shows to what extent institutions and politicians have been overshadowed by the ra'is, Arafat. One cynic in Ramallah, home of the PLC, when asked to assess the Palestinian Authority, commented that "There is no Palestinian Authority, there is only an Arafat Authority." This comment, a not-so-subtle reference to the arbitrary and often brutal nature of the PA, is a criticism widely proffered by Palestinians like PLC member Khatim ‘Abd al-Qadir who says that, without institutional balance and accountability, the PA is "authority without law."11
Despite these problems, the PLC has since early 1998 improved its performance. The U.S. government's development dollars supporting the legislature appear to have been well spent.12 In 1998, the PLC exercised an unprecedented level of oversight—discussing, debating and investigating alleged corruption, human rights abuses, and mismanagement in the executive.13 During the inaugural session of the spring 1999 PLC session, Speaker Abu'l-‘Ala optimistically characterized the PLC's performance as exhibiting a noteworthy maturity.14
II. Rule of Law
Israeli-Palestinian agreements from Oslo through Wye River have been predicated on security. Indeed, the Palestinian commitment to fight terror and constrain Islamists served as the framework in which the PA was established. This emphasis on security—sanctioned by Washington—lowers the standards by which the PA's human rights record are judged. Agreements with Israel effectively afford the PA the freedom to enforce draconian measures that are not exactly laws; the PA has not established a legal framework for its counterterrorism efforts, relying instead on arbitrary, seemingly haphazard steps.
Thus, Palestinians with suspected ties to Islamist groups are from time to time rounded up in large sweeps known in Gaza sarcastically as nasf al-qa'ima, meaning "the same list," a phrase akin to "the usual suspects." When a member of the Palestinian police force in Gaza was killed, PA policemen wearing black masks to conceal their identities descended on thirty Islamists in the middle of the night and arrested them.15 The shift from brother to jailer has had a dismaying impact. As a Gazan journalist pointed out, at least when Palestinians went to Israeli prison, they emerged heroes; today release from PA prison is an uneventful, even discouraging experience.16 During the intifada, enduring arrest and suffering at the hands of the Israelis was respected; at the hands of the PA, it is merely degrading. In fact, a special respect was bestowed on Palestinians detained by the Israelis.But unlike violations under the Israelis, PA-sponsored human rights violations have struck a chilling chord with the locals, leaving them outraged and indignant. In this spirit, Muhammad al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad representative, complained (at a workshop discussing democracy) that the opposition in general and the Islamists in particular were the first victims of the absence of democracy in the PA.17
The PA's lack of a rule of law means that justice is political. Note the case in March 1999, a moment of particularly high frustration,18 when two police officers in Gaza were sentenced to death. One of them, Colonel Ahmad Abu Mustafa, was accused of raping a five-year-old boy; after a two-hour trial he was summarily executed (on the grounds of inciting the public against the Palestinian Authority).19 The other, Ra'id al-‘Attar—was accused of killing an officer in a separate Palestinian police force. Attar has not been executed, but remains on death row, for after his arrest, his clan and supporters poured into the streets to protest, marching on a PA police station and demanding his exoneration and release. In the mêlée that followed, PA policemen shot and killed two youths; during the funeral processions of the two youths a day later, several hundred were wounded when the Palestinian police opened fire. A cousin of the condemned, Su'ad al-‘Attar, threatened that if the PA executed Ra'id, then "all the people will make an intifada, not against Israel, [but] against the [Palestinian] Authority."20 Arafat, according to press accounts, is presently reviewing this case, which poses an acute political conundrum for him.
Arafat's executive has been a frequent and unapologetic interloper in the Palestinian judiciary. It ignores rulings of top judges and it either removes or replaces justices without explanation. In January 1999, the Palestinian chief justice found himself fired, reportedly because he complained about executive interference in the judiciary. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights, a prominent non-governmental organization (NGO), issued a report in March 1999 that excoriated Arafat for undercutting judicial authority at every turn. The report concluded that there was nothing suggesting a real desire on the part of the executive to expand the scope of the Judicial Authority or to establish its role as mandated by law.21 "The justice system is independent. I don't want anybody to tell me that the judiciary system is not independent. It is independent."22 When Arafat spoke these words before a special session of the PLC attended by Bill Clinton, his audience (PLC and Palestine National Council members, PA officials), could barely contain their laughter. Just one week prior to this historic address, the PLC had passed a draft judiciary law mandating judicial independence. Months have since passed and the judiciary law still awaits Arafat's signature.
Implementation of judicial rulings is selective, contingent on institutions directly controlled by Arafat—the security apparatuses and the ministry of the interior. The case of Bilal al-Ghul illustrates the problem. The PA General Intelligence Service took Ghul, a 15-year-old from Gaza City, into custody on February 12, 1999, following the escape of his father Yahya from a PA prison. A Palestinian newspaper intimated that the PA took the child hostage pending the return of his fugitive father.23 Eight days after the child's apprehension, on February 20, the judiciary ordered his release;24 this finally happened the second week of March.
Ghul was but one of many imprisoned without charge; his was brief, but the local human rights organizations and press have documented many cases of lengthy imprisonment without charges. The high court of Gaza ordered on March 14, 1999, the release of Marwan ‘Abd al-Karim ‘Isa, detained by the PA without charge since 1996. The most prominent captive currently held in Gaza is a Hamas leader, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ar-Rantisi, incarcerated without charge or trial since April 1998.25 The PA high court ordered his immediate release on June 4, 1998, but PA security officials ignored this request until the end of January 1999, when forty-seven Hamas prisoners in Nablus began a hunger strike. Thirty-six days later, this and tire-burning rallies in Gaza and Nablus prompted the PA to meet with Hamas and agree to put on trial or release nearly 300 Islamist political prisoners including Rantisi by the end of March 1999. Still, Rantisi remains behind bars today.
Rantisi's case encapsulates what are often described as incompatible demands of security and human rights. Obliged by agreements with Israel to fight terror and also scrutinized by dozens of indigenous human rights organizations, the PA characterizes its situation as walking a tightrope. According to its officials, protecting Israeli security necessarily entails violation of human rights. One PA intelligence official recently confided that while he was personally opposed to the torture and the mistreatment of Islamists, Israeli policies and PA commitments compelled him to follow distasteful policies.26
Despite official pronouncements, however, zealous counterterrorist efforts are not the root of most human rights abuses in the PA. Many of the indignities inflicted on the population appear to be aimed at controlling legitimate non-violent opposition to the regime. Thus, the PA security forces routinely violate the parliamentary immunity of PLC members and the PA has officially sanctioned the vigilante-style murders of Palestinian land-dealers suspected of selling land to Jews. The harassment and imprisonment of journalists and gadflies who write about PA practices is also prevalent. Perhaps equally as troubling have been the PA executive's efforts to curtail the activities of Palestinian NGOs—particularly the watchdog organizations dedicated to monitoring PA treatment of prisoners. Palestinian security commitments to Israel might very well justify the continued detainment of Rantisi and his ilk; there is no reason, however, for this type of arrest and incarceration to be carried out outside the rule of law.
III. Civil Service Reform
In 1993, Hanan Ashrawi called for procedures to ensure the placement of appropriate personnel in the soon-to-be established Palestinian Authority.27 Ashrawi's enlightened plea went unheeded and the PA bureaucracy blossomed into a top-heavy structure. A well-known Palestinian economist has observed that the PA employs 2,000 general managers but needs only 100 of them, resulting in the absurd but commonplace situation of two managers supervising one employee.
To address this problem, the legislature passed the Civil Service Law in June 1997 to systematize the PA bureaucracy by setting guidelines for uniform pay-grades, standardized qualifications for positions and titles, and procedures for performance reviews, hiring, and firing. This law can trim the highly-paid, under-qualified, under-utilized, and unnecessary general managers, while giving the lowest salaried workers substantial raises and equalizing the salaries of civil administration and ministry employees. The law also dared address the conflict between the munadilin (strugglers) and those with objectively appropriate qualifications (as well as many of those who struggled against Israel during the intifada).28 The former, long-time PLO types have taken a disproportionate number of the choice positions in the PA bureaucracy. Indeed, positions in the PA bureaucracy are seen as gifts to be awarded for longtime membership in Fatah or other subjective characteristics.29 This might explain why a key position in the Ministry of Finance went to the daughter of Muhammad Zuhdi an-Nashashibi, a top-ranking Fatah official and the minister of finance. These type of appointments have engendered much resentment.30
Arafat ratified this law in May 1998, and with his consent, in November 1998, steps were taken by the PA bureaucracy to at least partially implement the law. 31 After a number of strikes, culminating with demands for substantial pay raises from members of the Palestinian security forces, in January 1999, Arafat suspended the law. One month later, in February 1999, the executive authority phased in a renewed implementation of this law but then several strikes took place—including those by doctors, teachers and judges—all related to the proposed reforms in the PA governmental structure. Some civil servants stopped work fearing that their titles and/or salaries would be reduced in accordance with the new law; others went on strike protesting anything less than total and immediate implementation of the law. In subsequent months, as the Civil Service Law became mired in an implementation crisis, strikes became a regular occurrence in the PA. With insufficient funds allocated in the budget to cover the costs associated with the implementation, it seems unlikely that the law will take effect for some time.
IV. Freedom of Press
The Palestinian press is one of the freest, and it publishes more newsworthy stories than almost any other in the Arab world. At times, it even outspokenly criticizes the PA, something that often puts journalists in harm's way. In 1996 the editor of Al-Quds, Mahir al-‘Alami, was jailed for refusing to publish a story about Arafat on the front-page. The Hamas weekly Ar-Risala has been shut down and reopened by the PA several times—most recently in April 1999. Its editor-in-chief, Ghazi Hamad, was jailed in May 1999 for publishing a story about a Palestinian, Ayman al-Amasi, allegedly tortured to death in a PA prison. (What happened to him is not exactly clear, though it appears he was killed in captivity.)
This relative freedom means that Palestinians can read about the shortcomings of the PA every day in their local papers. One article might discuss the increasing imbalance among the judicial, legislative, and executive authorities and complain that the Palestinian Legislative Council is being co-opted by the executive authority.32 Another might treat its readers to extensive coverage of the PLC Special Committee Report, detailing the corruption that purportedly resulted in $300 million disappearing from PA coffers. The newspapers provide extensive coverage of town hall meetings and fora discussing democracy and democratic development in the PA.
The combination of good press coverage and bitter personal experience is breeding contempt for the PA among its constituency. The leading Palestinian dailies, Al-Ayyam, Al-Quds and Al-Hayat al-Jadida, are particularly strong contributors to the prevailing sense of outrage. These papers routinely report on the activities and publications of human rights organizations—which are extremely critical of the Palestinian security services. Likewise, these papers reprint the communiqués of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which portray PA counterterrorism efforts as a systematic assault on Palestinian civil rights.
PLC efforts to establish the legislature as an active counterbalance to the weighty executive have gone largely unnoticed by the population, in part because its sessions have not been televised since May 1997 (when Arafat imprisoned journalist Da'ud Kuttab for televising proceedings of a PLC floor debate on the corruption charges).33 Newspapers cover PLC proceedings but Palestinians don't appear to follow the debates or the voting records of their elected politicians. In contrast to Chairman Arafat, a front-page fixture in the Palestinian dailies, the PLC is often relegated to the middle and back pages.
In 1993, Palestinians overwhelmingly supported a democratic political system similar to that of Israel;34 today, frustrations are rising because the PA has not met Palestinians' minimal expectations. This optimism reflected a belief in Palestinian exceptionalism—the notion that the Palestinian Authority would escape the problems of other Arab societies because of a high level of education and political awareness.35 Six years on, this optimism has faded.
In this time, the Palestinian Authority set up institutional structures for an efficient and accountable government but failed to implement democratic processes and a rule of law. The dichotomy between form and function is striking and is particularly evident in the performance of the Palestinian legislature. Yes, there are bright signs: the structural framework for a working democratic government; the eighty-eight-member Palestinian Legislative Council operates as a representative—albeit irrelevant—microcosm of democracy in the PA; the Palestinian press is to some extent a vibrant thriving enterprise. But in other areas (democratic processes and respect for human rights), the PA record is not good.
In all, despite the efforts of well-intended individuals and the numerous indigenous advocates of civil society, the PA is more authoritarian then democratic. And if past performance is any predictor of future outcome, the prospects for democratic development in the PA are bleak.
Years of corruption, disregard for human rights, lack of political pluralism, and the absence of rule of law has exacted a heavy price. The PA has experienced a crippling brain drain of the best and brightest Palestinians.36 PA territory is a repository of disappointment and frustration. Social and economic conditions in the PA are difficult at best, but lately, the growing sense of cynicism and despair has reached new depths. The primary complaint in daily life is clearly the stagnant economy—which Palestinians describe as ta‘ban, or tired. Anger is palpable in the West Bank and Gaza. However, most anger is directed toward the PA governmental structure; and depression, anxiety, and frustration among Palestinians in Gaza appears to be on the rise, due at least in part to the high rate of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and torture meted out by PA security forces.37 Publicly and rhetorically, Palestinian officials blame Israel for the situation in the PA. Yet recently, Palestinians acknowledge, privately and publicly, that the primary source of the prevailing Palestinian demoralization is the Palestinian Authority itself. Palestinians, angry and frustrated, feel trapped in a situation of their own making.
Perhaps most worrisome is that Islamic militants appear to be gaining strength, as the corruption, bureaucratic mismanagement, and brutality of the PA contribute to a decline in the popularity of Fatah. In a March 1999 poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC), 63 percent of the respondents indicated that the imposition of Islamic law in the PA would increase their support for the government,38 a statistic that seems to indicate a high level of confidence in the Islamists and a rising dissatisfaction in Fatah. Many academics believe that the strong performance of Hamas in the March 1999 student council elections in Palestinian universities reflects general public opinion.39 In the absence of a multi-party political system, Hamas has emerged not so much as the result of a desire to establish an Islamic state but as the only alternative to Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Hamas and its registered affiliate, Party of Salvation (Hizb al-Khalas) have indicated a willingness to participate in the next PA elections; given the wide hostility toward Arafat, the elections could galvanize a united opposition front of pro-democratic and Islamist elements in the PA that could further polarize the Palestinian political landscape, weakening Fatah and effectively strengthen the anti-Oslo camp.
These issues have international implications. Raji Surani, director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights and a critic of the PA's domestic record, says that a democratic form of government is not just an essential framework for the development of society but also an immutable pre-requisite for lasting peace with Israel. In the absence of democracy, Surani maintains that Palestinian-Israeli peace remains an Israeli peace with Arafat.40
Is he right? Autocratic Arab states can make peace with Israel, as the Egyptian and Jordanian cases prove. But two points need stressing. First, despite twenty years of peace with Egypt and nearly five years with Jordan, the agreements have not blossomed into warm peace. In fact, the populations of both Jordan and Egypt do not appear to particularly support the existing agreements and have consistently opposed initiatives to normalize relations with Israel. Second, the Palestinians differ from other Arabs in that they have more education and international experience, plus they have been closely intertwined with the Zionist enterprise for a century. Having observed and come to appreciate Israeli democracy,41 Palestinians have stated in polls their desire to emulate Israel's system.42
A relatively free press, thriving civil society, and an osmotic Palestinian experience with Israeli democracy combine to make authoritarian government in the PA an untenable long-term alternative. Despite the oppressive nature of Palestinian society, the regime is by regional standards relatively benign. Yet at the same time, a more developed political culture and a long history of civil society has made Palestinians less tolerant of authoritarianism. Feelings of frustration are only exacerbated by the press, which although controlled, provides the local population with a fairly good sense of what is going on. The combination of these factors would suggest that the status quo cannot continue indefinitely in the PA.
If the prospect of the Palestinian legislature with a large bloc of Hamas representatives is unappealing, the alternative—continued exclusion of a significant disaffected portion of the Palestinian population—possesses its own risks. Continued support for an authoritarian PA will lend further legitimacy to Hamas and could encourage a backlash against what has been achieved thus far in the peace process. A more accountable government in the Palestinian Authority could ameliorate the conditions in the PA and encourage political moderation. A truly pluralist, representative, and accountable Palestinian government might be temporarily detrimental to the peace process but will assure its long-term viability.
Implications for the United States
These questions of Palestinian governance have of late become the topic of intense American debate and analysis. For example, a Council on Foreign Relations task force report, Strengthening Palestinian Public Institutions, received very extensive discussion in The New York Times.43 Still, the U.S. government has shown little concern with the issues raised here. If anything, to ensure the Clinton administration's priority of keeping the Palestinians engaged in negotiations with Israel, Washington has placed all of its eggs in the Arafat basket, trying at every turn to strengthen and enhance his credibility. This intense focus on short-term diplomatic success comes at the expense of Palestinian civil rights and democratic development.
The assumption in Washington that Arafat is the only one who can deliver the Palestinians is based not just on Arafat's charisma, experience, and revolutionary credentials, but on his role as head of a bureaucracy staffed by more than ten separate security apparatuses44 and a police force budget comprising approximately one-fourth of the (non-donor assistance) budget. These impressive resources permit Arafat to exercise his authority even in difficult circumstances.
Arafat will have to make some very unpopular decisions on territory, refugees, and Jerusalem in the closing stages of the peace process and the success of the negotiations may rest on his PA security forces being able to enforce the commitments he makes. Washington seems confident that in the short run, Arafat will prevail. Perhaps, but the more important question regards the long-term costs associated with supporting an increasingly unpopular authoritarian Palestinian leader.
The largely unconditional U.S. support for Arafat is based on the simple but clichéd choice of stability or democracy. This formulation ignores the potential consequences of supporting dictators. What happens inside the PA now is of importance to the United States because of its effect on what happens later, after the establishment of a Palestinian state and post-Arafat. If the PA's performance in its first five years is at all indicative of the future of Palestinian governance, then a Palestinian state could become another source of regional instability.
Washington has by-in-large chosen not to enter into the fray of internal Palestinian politics, preferring to remain on the sidelines, not taking positions on PA domestic policy debates. American officials studiously avoided commenting on the 1997 corruption report, the ongoing 1999 PA budget fiasco, and the human rights violations of Hamas prisoners in PA jails. Nor have they commented on, or encouraged PLC legislation like the Civil Service Law. On the few notable occasions when the U.S. government has taken a stand, it has apparently had some influence. The PLC's draft "Law for Regulating Foreign Ownership of Real Estate in Palestine," known as the Land Law, is an undisputed violation of Israeli-Palestinian agreements; although passed by the PLC and clearly popular, Arafat has—at the behest of the U.S. government—thus far refused to ratify it.
U.S. interests will be better served when Washington pursues a more subtle, two-pronged policy toward the Palestinian Authority, promoting human rights and democracy in the PA in addition to forwarding the peace process. A democratic, pro-Western PA is more likely to offer the sort of stability that will enhance Israel's security. Democracy and stability are not mutually exclusive. Washington's policy toward the emerging Palestinian state should reflect this reality.
1 Indyk, then U.S. ambassador to Israel, was commenting on whether democracy is a pre-requisite for peace in the Middle East, Ha'aretz, July 18, 1996.
2 Al- Ayyam, Mar. 7, 1999.
3 Mashru‘ al-Qanun al-Asasi li's-Sulta al-Wataniya al-Filastiniya, 3rd reading, available on www.pal-plc.org.
4 According to Article 71 of the PLC standing orders (An-Nizam ad-Dakhali) that were passed during the first regular session of the PLC on Mar. 21-22, 1996, "the president of the PNA [Palestinian National Authority, usually known as the PA] shall issue the laws within one month after being forwarded to him, and shall return them to the council within the above period, accompanied with his comments, or justification of his rejection. Otherwise the proposal shall be considered a decree, and shall be published immediately in the official gazette."
5 Al-Hayat al-Jadida, Mar. 8, 1999.
6 Al-Ayyam, Apr. 4, 1999. After several threats of votes of no confidence, on Apr. 4, Minister of Finance Nashashibi submitted the FY 1999 budget to the PLC. The budget has since been withdrawn, and its future remains unclear.
7 As-Siyasa al-Filastiniyya, Summer-Autumn 1997. The full text of the "PLC Special Committee Report Concerning the Annual Report of the General Comptroller Office for 1996" was reprinted in English in The Palestinian Council, 2nd Edition ( Jerusalem: Jerusalem Media Communication Center, 1998).
8 Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the Hamas spiritual leader, described the PLC as follows: "It acts according to the policy wanted by the Authority. Otherwise what was the meaning of giving their confidence to a cabinet they said was corrupt. The Council is a tool in the Authority's hand." Filastin al-Muslimah, Apr. 1999, cited in Foreign Broadcast Information Service-Near East and South Asia (FBIS-NES), Apr. 20, 1999.
9 The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 14, 1998.
10 According to Center for Palestine Research and Studies(CPRS) Public Opinion Poll #39 from Jan. 28-30, 1999, 47 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza said that corruption exists in the PLC. Another 24 percent of Palestinians didn't know. In JMCC's Public Opinion Poll No. 31, from Mar. 1999, 33 percent of Palestinians characterized the PLC's performance as bad, while 11 percent said it was very bad.
11 Interview with Khatim ‘Abd al-Qadir, Feb. 16, 1999.
12 There have been two notable success stories of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) development assistance in the PLC. The International Republican Institute (IRI) set up the parliamentary research unit—based on the Congressional Research Service model—to provide Palestinian legislators with the information necessary to make informed decisions. Associates for Rural Development (ARD), a Vermont-based USAID contractor, has focused its efforts on systematizing the administration and improving the overall legislative performance of the PLC.
13 Performance Measurement Report #2, Palestinian Legislative Council Project (draft), submitted by Associates for Rural Development to USAID/West Bank and Gaza, Dec. 31, 1998.
14 Al-Hayat al-Jadida, Mar. 8, 1999.
15 Ar-Risala, Feb. 11, 1999.
16 Interview with a Palestinian journalist in Gaza, Feb. 1999.
17 Al- Ayyam, Mar. 16, 1999.
18 For a good overview of the atmosphere in Gaza, see "Muwajahat Rafah … Ihbaht wa-Ghadab wa-Tardiyat Ash`ariya," Filastin al-Muslima, Apr. 1999.
19 Associated Press, Feb. 26, 1999. Also Al-Hayat, Feb. 27, 1999.
20 The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 12, 1999.
21 Al-Ayyam, Mar. 9, 1999.
22 Dec. 14, 1998.
23 Al-Quds, Mar. 2, 1999.
26 Interview with a Palestinian security official, Feb. 1999.
27 Agence France Presse, Nov. 14, 1993.
28 See Article 107 of the Civil Service Law.
29 Iyad Haddad, "The Law of the Jungle or the Rule of Law?" Peoples Rights (Journal), published by LAW, Ramallah, Jan. 1999, pp. 29-30.
30 Some 67 percent of Palestinians "believe that employment is based on wasta [connections]," according to Center for Palestine Research and Studies Public Opinion Poll no. 41, June 5, 1999,
31 Mashru‘ Qanun al-Khidma al-Madaniya, 2nd reading, available on www.pal-plc.org. The Civil Service Law was issued on May 28, 1998.
32 Al-Ayyam, Mar. 17, 1999.
33 The New York Times, May 21, 1997.
34 CPRS Public Opinion Poll no. 3, Nov. 1993.
35 Ahmad S. Khalidi, "The Palestinians' First Excursion into Democracy," Journal of Palestine Studies, (Summer 1996). pp. 20-28.
36 Financial Times, Mar. 25, 1999.
37 Al-Istiqlal, Feb. 5, 1999.
38 JMCC Public Opinion Poll no. 31 on "Palestinian Attitudes Towards Politics," Mar. 1999.
39 Meyrav Wurmser, "Terrorism and the Palestinian State," Jim Colbert, ed., A Palestinian State: Implications for Security and American Policy (Washington: Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, 1999), p. 19.
40 Interview with Raji Surani, Feb. 18, 1999.
41 See Middle East Media and Research Institute, (MEMRI) Special Dispatch #34, June 4, 1999.
42 For example, CPRS Poll #39 from January 1999, ranks the status of Israeli democracy and human rights as higher than American democracy.
43 June 29, 1999.
44 Gal Luft, "The Palestinian Security Services: Between Police and Army," Policy Focus #36 (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Nov. 1998).