Julien Salingue is a Ph.D. candidate (Political Science) and was a teaching assistant at the University of Paris-VIII, France. His research is on the relations between the State apparatus and society in the Palestinian territories by exploring the shifts that occurred in the modes of exercise of power and in the balance of political and social forces in the West Bank and Gaza after the signature of the Oslo Accords.
His last books are À la recherche de la Palestine (Paris, Éditions du Cygne, 2011) and Israel, un État d’apartheid ? (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2013). His (French) blog : http://www.juliensalingue.fr
The Palestinian Authority as a Rentier Proto-State
My research aims at studying the dynamics at work in Palestinian society in the period that followed the signature of the Oslo Accords (1993-1994). It examines how the Palestinian Authority (PA) was built in continuity with the previous trajectory of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and what its building reveals with regard to the evolution of power relations and apparatuses within Palestinian society. The research is rooted in political sociology and attempts to identify and analyse the relations between the State apparatus and society in the Palestinian territories by exploring the shifts that occurred in the modes of exercise of power and in the balance of political and social forces in the West Bank and Gaza. This leads to an assessment of the reasons for which the building of a legitimate and stable political-administrative structure failed in the Palestinian territories.
In this regard, economic issues are quite fondamental, in so far as the Palestinian economy has always been subjugated to the Israeli occupation, and as the building of a Palestinian economic infrastructure seemed to be a key element of the Oslo Process. But it appears that the PA is at the same time a central and dependent economic actor : central because it began to play an essential economic role in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), as the main employer and as the only interlocutor, regarding economic issues, with the Israeli power ; dependent, because the structure of the Palestinian economy (characterized by the « de-development » process) and the endemic poverty in the OPT prevents the PA from raising enough taxes to gain economic independence through self-sufficiency. This leads the PA to be dependent on the incomes from abroad, namely international aid and the taxes retroceded by Israel.
This phenomenons leads the PA to become a rentier state apparatus, which is in many ways more concerned with the will of the donors than that of its own people. Indeed, most of its revenues come from external actors, who use the rent as a strategic tool to impose their political agenda on the Palestinian proto-state and its leadership. Furthermore, this rentier nature of the Palestinian regime contributed to partially reshape the Palestinian economy, preventing the emergence of a real private sector, independent from the state apparatus. This also lead part of the PA officials to become « political businessmen », whose interests strongly diverge from those of the Palestinian living in the OPT.
I will try, in my paper, to give a critical overview of the French academic works on the political economy of Palestine, which are mainly focused on the issues of the economic impact of the occupation and of economic development under adversity, but don’t raise the issue of the rentier proto-state. This critical overview, completed and combined with the rentier paradigm, will allow us to question the failure of the Oslo Process and the limits of some academic works, especially in France, which underestimates the contradictions inside Palestinian society.