Based largely on the French model, local government in the Ottoman Empire during the period of modernization served as a tool of the Turkish Administration for the re-establishment of central rule in the provinces. Indeed, the authoritarian Turkish state was concerned to maintain absolute control over its sprawling Empire and was wary of emerging centres of local political activity and opposition. 1 Yet the initial phase of local government in the Palestine region when the majlis, or provincial administrative council, was created in the 1840s, served, in fact, to challenge the central authorities in the towns of Syria and Palestine. For, although this body was not elected, for several decades it provided the elite strata of local Muslim Arab society with a vehicle for political self-expression vis-à-vis the central Turkish authorities. 2 Nonetheless, important matters were still subject to the approval and overall supervision of the Turkish governor, who retained full executive authority; in the course of the 1860s the powers of the majlis were greatly diminished while many of its functions were transferred to new bodies, including municipal councils. 3 Thus, between 1864 and 1877 the Ottoman government promulgated several laws relating to the establishment of a municipal system of local government. The basis was laid in the Vilayet Law of 1864 and the subsequent statute of 1867 that provided for a centralized administrative apparatus to oversee local municipal authorities. Under the Vilayet Law of 1871 the government made no serious effort to develop municipal institutions but, rather, merely 21expanded the number of municipalities. The 1877 Law of Provincial Municipalities laid the legal basis for municipal government in the provinces as well as for the administration of rural localities, 4 but there is no evidence that the 22 municipalities created by the Turks in Palestine were invested with either the responsibility or resources to become active instruments for serving local public interests. As it was, these organs as well as other institutions became rather tools for advancing the socio-political interests of the local notables who controlled these bodies. As the British consul in Jerusalem during the mid-nineteenth century reported, for example: "a close corporation of Arab families, not recognized by law, but influenced by position, usurped all the municipal offices among them". 5 Indeed, members of such Jerusalem families as the Khalidis, 'Alamis, Husaynis, Dajanis, and Nashashibis occupied, from the mid-nineteenth century, prominent positions in the provincial administrative councils, in the government of various districts, in town councils, in the religious establishment, and, later on, were also represented in the Ottoman parliament, up to the time of the British occupation of Palestine.