Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority The Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA;
السلطة الوطنية الفلسطينيةý As-Sulta Al-Wataniyya Al-Filastīniyya) is the administrative organization
established to govern parts of the
West Bank and
Gaza Strip. The authority rules under the authorization of the Gaza-Jericho agreement and as specified
more fully in the Oslo Interim agreement of 1995. Israel formally
insisted that this government would not have the authority of a state. Though it is not seated as a state in the United
Nations or recognized as such, it does have representation in the UN as well as ambassadors in numerous countries. The
head of the authority is called Rais in Arabic, translated as President. Until the death of Yasser Arafat at least,
Israel insisted on calling the head of government, "Chairman." The Palestinians and most states call the authority the
"Palestinian National Authority" whereas Israel calls it "Palestinian Authority."
To enable free elections mandated by the agreement, Israel withdrew its troops from densely populated areas of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip, constituting 97% of the Arab population, but only about 7% of the territory, which was
designated "Area A" - under full Palestinian Authority administrative control. Area B regions had Palestinian
Administrative control but Israeli security control. Area C regions, which consist mostly of settlements, remained under
full Israeli occupation. In subsequent agreements such as the
Hebron agreement and the Wye
River Memorandum Israel agreed to further expansion of areas A and B until they constituted most of the area of the
West Bank and Gaza. Following the outbreak of violence in September 2000, Israel eventually reoccupied large portions of
Area A and B, and gradually began returning them to Palestinian Authority rule after violence was curtailed, and due to
intense US pressure. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip, making some arrangements with the
Palestinian Authority and with the European Union for controlling borders, for for supply of the area and security.
mission of the authority was to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. All parties that run in elections for this
authority are therefore by definition parties that are committed to the peace process formally, and under the
Oslo Interim agreement, no one may participate in elections who has not renounced violence. The constitution provides the structure
for a democratic society. In practice, though elections were held for the Palestinian Authority, the democratic
provisions of the constitution were more honored in the breach than in the observance. Political parties and factions in
Palestinian society were in large part derived from the armed groups that had made up the
PLO as well as some very small independent parties. The Islamic movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, initially
boycotted the elections and the government. They could not formally participate in the government because the would not
renounce the goal of destroying Israel. The Palestinian Authority was for
all practical purposes a creature of the Palestine Liberation Organization
and its officials were all PLO officials or members until 2006.
The legislative branch rubber
stamped the wishes of Rais (President or Chairman)
Yasser Arafat who was more or less
synonymous with the Palestinian national cause, and new elections were postponed for many years under numerous excuses.
Corruption and favoritism were widespread. Palestinian police and Fatah officials abused their authority. Aid funds were
funneled into perks for party members, and there were widespread rumors of rape and other abuses by officials. Disgruntled Palestinians called the Palestinian government "Yasser
Arafat and the 40 thieves."
The peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians failed, but the Palestinian Authority remained in power. During the
violence that began in September 2000, there is evidence that PNA funds were used to finance suicide bombings and pay
the salaries of terrorists.
Following the death of Yasser Arafat, under pressure from the United
States, the government of President Mahmoud
Abbas permitted new elections at the beginning of 2006, and likewise due to US pressure, allowed the
Hamas to run in the elections under the guise
of a different party name or as independent candidates, even though Hamas does not recognize the provisions of the Oslo agreements
regarding recognition of the right of Israel to exist, renunciation of violence and the goal of achieving peace. Hamas
won an upset victory, partly due to widespread disgust with corruption of the ruling
Fatah party, and partly due to demoralization
and disunity in Fatah, as well as chaotic government that resulted in rule by armed gangs, murder and mayhem. Though
Fatah captured a larger share of the popular vote, Hamas candidates won more seats in the regional representation
scheme. This victory has incorrectly been labeled a "landslide" in much of the popular press.
Recent opinion surveys consistently show that Fatah should outpoll Hamas by a very large margin. Though initially
Abbas insisted that the Hamas could only join the government if they agreed to accept "all previous agreements," a
compromise agreement was evolved with the mediation of the Saudis that allowed a government under Ismail Hanniyeh of the
Hamas to take office.
In June of 2007, however, Hamas took power unilaterally in Gaza through an armed coup, slaughtering Fatah cadres
mercilessly. Though they vastly outnumbered the Hamas, the Fatah soldiers and Palestinian police were unwilling or
unable to overcome the more motivated Hamas. Some blame the fact that Abbas never issued orders to confront the Hamas,
others blame the absence of Muhamad Dahlan who was undergoing medical treatment. Abbas declared a separate "interim"
government in the West Bank under Prime Minister Salem Fayyad. This government is recognized as legitimate by most
Palestinians and most of the world. Arab countries give at least tacit recognition to the Hamas government in Gaza as
well. Iran and Syria support the Hamas more or less unilaterally, whereas Israel, EU countries, the UN and most others
support the West Bank government of Fayyad and boycott the Hamas government to a lesser or greater extent. The
industrialized "donor countries" have provided extensive aid to the Abbas/Fayyad government, which promised to clean up
corruption and restore order, and also to implement the quartet roadmap, which calls for elimination of terrorist groups
and collection of all unauthorized weapons. The Palestinian Authority has taken steps in this direction. However, even
in areas that Israel returned to the control of the Palestinian National Authority, Israeli raids continue to arrest
wanted terrorists who are not caught by the Palestinian National Authority police, and to discover suicide bombers and
attempts to smuggle explosives into Israeli territory inside the "green line" (1949 boundaries of Israel).
The Palestinian Authority (West Bank government) has renewed peace negotiations with
Israel with the aim of reaching an
agreement over implementation of a peace treaty and a Palestinian state. The
agreement could only be implemented upon reunification of Gaza and the West Bank.
Officials of the West Bank Palestinian Authority ("Interim Government")
President: Mahmoud Abbas of the
Fatah party (Since January 15, 2005).
Prime Minister: Salam Fayad of the Third Way party, since June 15, 2007.
Foreign Minister: Riyad al Maliki of the PFLP, since June 15, 2007.
Interior Minister: Abdel Razek Yehiyeh, Independent, since June 15, 2007.
Previous office holders:
Past Prime Ministers:
Mahmoud Abbas: March 19, 2003 -
October 7, 2003
Ahmad Qurei: October 7, 2003 - December 15, 2005
Nabil Shaath: December 15, 2005 - December 24, 2005
Ahmad Qurei: December 24, 2005 -
February 19, 2006
Ismail Haniya: February 19, 2006 - June 14, 2007
Yasser Arafat: July 5, 1994 -
November 11, 2004
Rauhi Fattouh (acting): November 11, 2004 - January 15, 2005
Past Foreign Ministers
Nabil Shaath: April 3, 2003-
Mahmoud al-Zahar: March 20, 2006 - June 14, 2007
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Palestinian Authority, PA, PNA,
Further Information: History
of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Oslo Interim