Power or justice? Rule and law in the Palestinian authority

Hillel Frisch, Menachem Hofnung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Rule of law is usually analyzed exclusively in reference to domestic peace within the political entity. Yet, establishing a powerful independent legal system can have a major impact on peaceful relations between political entities. This article evaluates the Palestinian Authority's performance in creating democratic and legal institutions from its inception in the summer of 1994 until the outbreak of the armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in September 2000. Three potential explanations drawn from the literature on state formation are evaluated in explaining the outcome: the foreign intervention thesis blames the failure on the asymmetry of power between Israel and the PLO; the domestic structural claim is that the weakness of the legal system stems from the unwillingness of the ruler to limit his power; and the cultural argument claims that only Anglo-Saxon and European states are truly liberal and democratic. The findings show that the quest for power led to centralization of authority in the executive, despite valiant attempts by politicians and civil society to avert such an outcome, and the article identifies the types of obstacles that need to be overcome to transform the Palestinian entity into a democratic reality that would promote peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-348
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007


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