The topic of this thesis is the interplay between political context and Palestinian constitutional development from the inception of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1993 until the aftermath of the collapse of the National Unity Cabinet in June 2007.
The 2006 parliamentary elections brought a Hamas majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council. This offset a conflict between the Fatah backed president and the Hamas backed prime minister which culminated in 2007 with the split between Gaza and the West Bank. The recent conflicts between Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas and the deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh are here placed in a broader context of Palestinian constitutional history.
The Basic Law was written in the intersection between local power struggles and great power politics. Both the U.S. and the European countries pursued multiple agendas and interests where democracy was one of several competing goals. My first main question is how these various interests have affected Palestinian constitutional development. More specifically, I aim to discuss the development of the executive as envisioned in the Basic Law, and whether the PA has evolved in the direction of constitutionalist or nonconstitutionalist rule.
In 2003 the Basic Law was amended and the Palestinian political system was changed from a presidential to a semi-presidential system by furnishing the executive with a prime minister. The amendment transferred a number of competencies from the presidency to the cabinet. The second main question is whether the cabinet has been able to exercise its powers as laid out in the Amended Basic Law.By comparing various drafts for the Palestinian Basic Law, the thesis traces the relations between the president and the cabinet as laid out in the Basic Law. The thesis shows that the 2003 amendment was systematically reversed in a process that was initiated by President Yasser Arafat, but that continued under the more reform minded President Mahmoud Abbas.
The lacking ability of the PA executive to impose order on the security forces is well known. This thesis shows that the reversal of the 2003 reforms affected a broad specter of competencies that had been awarded to the cabinet by the constitutional amendment.