Palestine ranks poorly as a democratic state by both Freedom House and The Economist’s Intelligence Unit. Freedom House does not recognize Palestine as one government, but instead separates the data into two separate categories: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Freedom House ranks the Gaza Strip as an 11/100 and the West Bank as a 25/100. The Economist’s Intelligence Unit has data on Palestine, but the much of the analysis surrounds the influence of Israeli policies. The data clearly points to large failures at the hands of the Palestinian government in fulfilling most roles of a democracy. However, Palestine has never been able to fully consolidate its democracy under its history of imperialism and Israeli occupation for over 70 years.
The State of Palestine, although not recognized by the United Nations as a Member State, is controlled by two different governments: the Palestinian National Authority and the State of Israel. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was established as an interim form of self-governance of the Palestinian peoples following the 1993-95 Oslo Accords. The Oslo Accords follow a nearly 50-year conflict surrounding land and culture conflicts, as both Israel and Palestine claim ownership over the same territory. The PNA controls the Palestinian populations in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. While the PNA has the power to govern the peoples of Palestine, the democratic structure of the PNA and the State of Palestine must be understood in the context of the influence of the Israeli State.
The framework surrounding the PNA calls for free and fair elections to elect leaders to the presidency and legislature, however said elections have not been held since 2005-06. Like most democracies, the Palestinian legislature is appointed by the President. Local elections were planned as recently as 2016 but were postponed from what is understood as political contention between the two primary Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah. Hamas, the Islamist Movement that holds power in Gaza, and Fatah, the Nationalist Party who holds power in the West Bank, have both agreed to a 2021 General Election. Leaders of Hamas and Fatah have both made a commitment to free and fair elections and pledge to accept the results of the election. Unelected Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas has called for election despite holding illegitimate political power. Palestinian police forces in the West Bank and Gaza have both committed to guarding polling places for the election, but this cannot underscore that the election will be held under Israeli occupation.
Under the Oslo Accords, which Hamas has rejected, the proposed framework for free and fair elections is for Palestinians in Israeli occupied space. In Israeli occupied Palestine PNA leaders have no sovereignty over their land, water, or other general powers of a government. However, under the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Government is expected to hold elections despite the lacking the fundamental sovereignty over their land. Because of this Hamas leaders, the second most powerful political faction in Palestine, refused to fully participate in as they remained weary to legitimize the 1996 and 2006 Palestinian elections as the elections were directly related to the mandate of the Oslo Accords. Hamas views any elections held under the mandates of the Oslo Accord to be an illusion of Palestinian sovereignty, ignoring the fact that Palestine has been denied membership to the United Nations and is largely occupied by Israel. The influence of the Oslo Accords has created distrust in the legitimacy and fairness of any Palestinian election that is held under Israeli occupation.
There is no denying that the State of Palestine does not function as the city upon a hill of democracy. There are numerous state sponsored policies that police the suppression of the public’s participation in a democratic system. It is undoubtable that the State of Palestine has not yet consolidated its democracy. Palestine does not have the sovereignty to consolidate its government into a democratic state. The PNA has not held an election in over 15 years. It cannot be said that without Israeli occupation that Palestine would be a flourishing democracy, but it is important to note that Palestinian democracy would not be in the condition that it is presently without the occupation. Palestine will not have the resources to consolidate democracy until it exists as a state free of Israeli occupation. With an understanding of any future of Palestinian democracy, must also come an understanding of Israeli occupation.