Building Democracy in Palestine: Liberal Peace Theory and the Election of Hamas

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The victory of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation, in the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Authority, was greeted with dismay by the international community, which responded by cutting off aid. This article seeks to understand why Hamas was elected, as well as the international community's response, through an analysis of the liberal peace thesis. This thesis states that democracies do not go to war with one another, thus it was thought that building a democratic Palestinian state would buttress the peace process. The Palestinian people have, however, elected an organization that rejects the peace process. This has provided a wake-up call for the US to face up to the fact that promoting democratization may not always produce the results it desires. The US sees the election of Hamas as the cause of the current crisis and the main obstacle to peace. This article, however, argues that this is merely a symptom, not the cause, of the crisis. The Palestinian Authority's lack of sovereignty and its complete dependence on Israel put severe limitations on the building of a viable, democratic state. The article concludes that the US's uncompromising response to Hamas could well undermine democracy promotion in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-755
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Israel-Palestine conflict
  • democratic peace theory

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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