Robinson's most controversial assertion is that the PLO used the Oslo accords to win a lease on life just as the intifada was about to make it irrelevant. Returning to Gaza, Arafat proceeded to restore the old families to their traditional positions, while quashing the new social and political groups. As a result, Robinson believes, a future Palestine will likely be authoritarian. This may well be true, and many Palestinians have expressed these same fears. But the sharp contrast between insiders and outsiders, between notables and young revolutionaries, is too sharply drawn. In the small confines of Palestinian society, everyone on the outside has relatives on the inside, notables have links to non- notables, and even Arafat has had to make some room for new blood in the ruling circles. If he does finally succeed in establishing a Palestinian state -- and there are still many reasons to be skeptical -- then many of the social forces unleashed by the intifada, including the Islamist opposition to the PLO, may have a chance to reassert themselves. If he or his successors fail, Palestinians will be left in Bantustans and the issue of democracy will seem quite remote.
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