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Palestinian National Authority

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Palestinian National Authority

Palestinian National Authority The Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA; Arabic: السلطة الوطنية الفلسطينية 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.

The original 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

Past Presidents:

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 Agreement  Palestine

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Palestinian National Authority