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European Council on Foreign Relations




The Palestinian debate

By - 10 December 2013

Since the 1970s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was largely accepted as the unchallenged representative of the Palestinian people. But, in the intervening years and in particular, since the inception of the PA in the 1990s, the question of who legitimately speaks for the Palestinians has become more contested. The question of whether Palestinians have legitimate and representative institutions is of special concern given that (a) Palestinian institutions (especially the security forces) are so heavily funded with external support; and (b) Israel increasingly argues that Palestinians lack the decision-making capacity to strike a deal.

This category looks at several factors from within Palestinian politics to determine whether and how they sustain or strain a two-state solution. First, it looks at the issues of unity and reconciliation among the different Palestinian constituencies. In regards to negotiating a final settlement, the nexus between Palestinian democracy, the PA-PLO duality, and the tension between the two requires examination. Second, it looks at the progress in convening elections for the presidency of the PA, the Palestinian Legislative Council (the legislative body of the PA), and the Palestinian National Council. The implicit and explicit commitments guiding the creation of a Palestinian state have sought to promote and protect the principles of democratic governance, and democratic legitimacy is relevant to the acceptance of any agreement by Palestinians. Third, this category looks at Palestinian perceptions of their leadership and its adherence to the rule of law. Conflicts elsewhere have demonstrated that leaders and negotiators do not have to carry the unanimous support of their populations to conclude a settlement. However, they do have to carry the confidence of the constituencies, and successful agreements must address most of the core concerns and drivers of the conflict. Consequently, the fourth indicator in this category looks at Palestinian support for a negotiated settlement.


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