In Palestinian society, it is much more important if one graduates from an Israeli prison than from a university in Texas. This is the reason that the two Palestinian governments, both Hamas and Fatah, are dominated by graduates of Israeli prisons who hold senior positions.

The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement was recently put on hold when the two sides have failed to reach agreement on who would head a new Palestinian unity government.

Hamas remains strongly opposed to the nomination of current Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, holding him responsible for the Palestinian Authority's security crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank.

Many Palestinians are also opposed to Fayyad because, they say, he was never part of the "revolution." They see him as an "outsider" who was imposed on President Abbas by the Americans and Europeans.

Fayyad's main problem, however, is that he did not participate in any violent attacks on Israel. Nor did he send his sons to take part in the intifada against Israel.

The longer the time one serves in an Israeli prison, the higher his or her rank is in the Palestinian security forces. This has been true ever since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. And this is how people like Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub became commanders of the Palestinians' Preventative Security Force.

In the West Bank, most of the senior officials running the ministries have either spent time in Israeli prisons or taken an active part in anti-Israel violence.

Because of this policy, many educated Palestinians who have never been to an Israeli prison are forced to search for jobs in the US, Europe and the Arab world.

There is no shortage of well-educated Palestinians who could contribute enormously to the establishment of proper institutions and good government. Yet they have almost no role in the "uniform culture," where many Palestinians continue to admire those who were part of the "revolution" more than university graduates and former World Bank officials such as Fayyad.

Yasser Arafat won great admiration largely because of his military fatigues, not because he studied at an Egyptian university in Cairo.

Fayyad would have become popular had he joined the armed wing of Fatah or Hamas and spent a few years in an Israeli prison.

If Fayyad or Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, the respected president of Al-Quds University, were to run in an election against anyone who spent time in an Israeli prison, they would most likely be defeated. Fayyad experienced this trend in 2006, when his Third Way list, which contested the parliamentary election, won only two seats.

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