It is difficult to escape the notion that Middle Eastern democracy is something of an oxymoron. The democratic credentials of any of the regimes or states in that great arc from the Atlantic to the Gulf (min alMuhit illa al-Khalij in the Arab nationalist parlance of yesteryear) are far from impeccable. Even the democratic nature of the much-vaunted "only democracy" in the region is circumscribed by the inherent tension between its Jewishness on the one hand and its self-proclaimed democratic ethos on the other.
When we look, then, at the Palestinians' first serious excursion into democracy with the recent elections, what are we really talking about, and what can we expect?
Ahmad S. Khalidi is the editor of JPS's sister publication, Majallat alDirasat al-Filastiniyya, and a fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. This paper is based on his remarks made at the RIIA's Chatham House on 23 January 1996.