Requiem for Palestinian Reform: Clear Lessons from a Troubled Record


Publication Date: February 2007

Publisher: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Author(s): Nathan Brown

Research Area: Politics

Type: Report

Coverage: Palestine


Between 2002 and 2006 the Palestinian government made numerous strides towards democratic reform, yet the outcome of the 2006 elections revealed a flawed foundation behind the movement. International backers, such as the United States and EU, viewed democratization as a means to weaken Arafat and promote a peace settlement with Israel, yet unexpected results led these actors to harshly turn against the Palestinian reform movement. What can this combination of successful reform initiatives and disillusioned failure mean for future democratic reform, not only in Palestine, but in the Middle East? What lessons can be learned for future reform movements?

In this Carnegie Paper, Requiem for Palestinian Reform; Clear Lessons from a Troubled Record, Nathan Brown, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, examines the successful establishment of democratic reforms in Palestine from 2002 to 2006, the changing nature of international support for reform following Hamas' electoral victory in 2006, and lessons for the Arab and international community on the failure of democratic reform.

Brown argues that the importance of utilizing democratic reform as long-term objective, rather than as a means to an end, cannot be better illustrated than in Palestine. The immediate international abandonment of the reform movement following Hamas' victory subjected Palestinian reformers to withering domestic criticism and promoted cynicism among many Palestinians.

One of the most striking aspects to reform in the Middle East is the extent to which Islamist movements have emerged as reformists. The idea that unrestrained executive branches and existing Arab regimes are estranged from their societies fit naturally within the Islamist political program and appeal.