The Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA; 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 PNA previously received considerable financial assistance from the European Union and the United States (approximately USD $1,000,000,000 combined in 2005), but both suspended all direct aid on April 7, 2006 (as threatened in January 2006 and following Canada's March 29, 2006 decision to cut all aid) as a result of the Hamas victory in parliamentary elections.
The Gaza International Airport was built by the PNA in the city of Rafah, but operated for only a brief period before being razed by Israel following the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. A sea port was also being constructed in Gaza but was never completed (see below).
The PA maintains an official uniformed armed service which various sources estimate to include anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 recruits employing some armored cars, and a limited number carry automatic weapons. Officially termed a "police force", it violates the Oslo Accords which limit the force to 30,000 recruits.
Many Palestinians are dependent on access to the Israeli job market. During the 1990s, Israel began to replace Palestinians with foreign workers. The process was found to be economical and also addressed security concerns. This hurt the Palestinian economy, in particular in the Gaza strip, where 45.7% of the population is under the poverty line according to the CIA World Factbook, but it also affected the West Bank.
Past Prime Ministers:
Past Foreign Ministers
Past Interior Ministers
The Oslo Accords were signed on 13 September 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. The Accords led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority. This was an interim organization created to administer a limited form of Palestinian self-governance in the Palestinian territories for a period of five years during which final-status negotiations would take place. The Palestinian Authority became responsible for civil administration in some rural areas, as well as security in the major cities of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Although the five-year interim period expired in 1999, the final status agreement has yet to be concluded despite attempts such as the Camp David 2000 Summit, the Taba summit, and the unofficial Geneva Accords.
After the inability of the Palestinians to reach any position in the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and with the continuing Second Intifada, in 2005 Israeli forces unilaterally withdrew its military and civilians from the Gaza Strip, ceding full effective internal control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority but retained control of its borders including air and sea (except for the Egyptian border).
Palestinian legislative elections took place on 25 January 2006. Hamas was victorious and Ismail Haniyeh was nominated as Prime Minister on 16 February 2006 and sworn in on 29 March 2006. However, when a Hamas-controlled government was formed, Israel, the United States, Canada, and the European Union froze all funds to the Palestinian Authority, after Hamas refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and agree to past agreements. These countries view Hamas as a terrorist organization.
In an attempt to resolve the financial and diplomatic impasse, the Hamas-led government together with Chairman Abbas agreed to form a unity government. Haniyeh resigned on 15 February 2007 as part of the agreement. The unity government was finally formed on 18 March 2007 under Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and consisted of members from Hamas, Fatah and other parties and independents.
After the takeover in Gaza by Hamas on 14 June 2007, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the government and on 15 June 2007 appointed Salam Fayad Prime Minister to form a new government. Though the new government's authority is claimed to extend to all Palestinian territories, in effect it is limited to the Palestinian Authority controlled areas of the West Bank. The Fayad government has won widespread international support. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia said in late June 2007 that the West Bank-based Cabinet formed by Fayad was the sole legitimate Palestinian government, and Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank. Hamas, which has effective control of the Gaza Strip, faces international diplomatic and economic isolation.
Israel has accused the Palestinian Authority of ignoring and covertly sponsoring the violence against Israelis. The prolonged support and participation of his (Yaser Arafat's?) own private militia, the Fatah, in suicide bombings, reinforces that claim. This view has been officially accepted by the United States in summer 2002, which decided then to halt most sorts of negotiations with the current Palestinian authority, pending a fundamental organizational change. The US Council on Foreign Relations think tank has declared the Palestinian Authority under Arafat a haven for terrorism .
During the Intifada, Israel has often targeted Palestinian Authority personnel and resources. In particular, many of the people arrested, assassinated or killed in action because of their alleged terrorist activities, were employees of the Palestinian Authority's security forces or militias. In Operation Defensive Shield Israel has captured documents that allegedly prove that the Palestinian Authority officially sponsors "terrorist activities", which are carried out by its personnel as "shadow jobs". For instance, Israel arrested and convicted Marwan Barghouti, a prominent leader of Fatah, for his role as leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Barghouti maintains his innocence, and rejects the impartiality of the Israeli courts.
Israel has also targeted Palestinian Authority infrastructure; in particular it has closed parts of the Palestinian sea and air ports, that were used to transport terrorists and their equipment. Israel's incursions during the Intifada also led to damage to some of the Palestinian computer infrastructure, though it was not deliberate.
These moves were criticized by the Palestinians, who claim that the Palestinian Authority is nearing collapse, and is no longer able to carry out its internal and external obligations. This is because these repeated degradations of PA resources and infrastructure have led to complaints by the PA and some of its EU funders that Israel is deliberately hobbling the PA to restrict its powers of law enforcement in order to present an image of terrorism and lawlessness in the Palestinian Territories. On July 7, 2004, the Quartet of Middle East mediators informed Ahmed Qurei, Prime Minister of the PA from 2003 to 2006, that they were "sick and tired" of the Palestinians failure to carry out promised reforms: "If security reforms are not done, there will be no (more) international support and no funding from the international community
On July 18, 2004, United States President George W. Bush stated that the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005 was unlikely due to instability and violence in the Palestinian Authority.
Following Arafat's death on November 11, 2004, Rawhi Fattuh, leader of the Palestinian Legislative Council became Acting President of the Palestinian Authority as provided for in Article 54(2) of the Authority's Basic Law.
On 19 April 2005, Vladimir Putin the president of Russia agreed to aid the Palestinian Authority stating, "We support the efforts of President Abbas to reform the security services and fight against terrorism ... If we are waiting for President Abbas to fight terrorism, he cannot do it with the resources he has now. ... We will give the Palestinian Authority technical help by sending equipment, training people. We will give the Palestinian Authority helicopters and also communication equipment.
In August 2005, Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon began his unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza strip. This increased the percentage of land in the Gaza strip nominally governed by the PNA from 60 percent to 100 percent.
In December 2006, Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of the PA, declared that the PA will never recognize Israel: "We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem
On June 14, 2007, the Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas, under the impressions of the Battle of Gaza, has dismissed the Hamas led government and declared a state of emergency. Since the Hamas attacks against Fatah security forces in Gaza Strip in June 2007, most of the Gaza Strip is under the control of Hamas, whereas the West Bank remains under the control of Fatah and the Palestinian president.
Arafat's administration was criticized for its lack of democracy, wide-spread corruption among officials, and the division of power among families and numerous governmental agencies with overlapping functions. He established over ten distinct security organizations through various mechanisms in an alleged divide et impera scheme, which is claimed to have guaranteed an atmosphere of power-struggle in the Authority which enabled him to preserve overall control. Both Israel and the US declared they lost trust in Arafat as a partner and refused to negotiate with him, regarding him as linked to terrorism. Arafat denied this, and was visited by other leaders around the world up until his death. However, this began a push for change in the Palestinian leadership. In 2003, Arafat succumbed to domestic and international pressure and appointed Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as prime minister of the PA. Abbas resigned four months later because of lack of support from Israel, the US, and Arafat himself. He was later chosen as his Fatah party's candidate for president of the PA in 2004 after the death of Arafat. He won the presidency on January 9, 2005 with 62% of the vote.
According to the Palestinian "Basic Law" which was signed by Arafat in 2002 after a long delay, the current structure of the PA is based on three separate branches of power: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The Judiciary Branch has yet to be properly formalized. The president of the PA is directly elected by the people, and the holder of this position is also considered to be the commander-in chief of the armed forces. In an amendment to the Basic Law approved in 2003 (and which may or may not become part of the Palestinian constitution once independence is established), the president appoints a "prime minister" who is also chief of the national security services. The prime minister chooses a cabinet of ministers and runs the government, reporting directly to the president. Former prime minister Ahmed Qureia formed his government on February 24, 2005 to wide international praise because, for the first time, most ministries were headed by experts in their field as opposed to political appointees.
The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is an elected body of 88 representatives and acts as a parliament. The PLC must approve all government cabinet positions proposed by the prime minister, and must also confirm the prime minister himself upon nomination by the president. As opposed to other Arab countries, the PLC has historically demonstrated considerable power, and has frequently caused changes in government appointments through threats of no-confidence votes. Many critical votes are won in the government's favor without an outright majority. Since the death of Arafat, the PLC has reinvigorated its activity, and commonly summons senior executive officials to testify before it. Parliamentary elections were conducted in January 2006 after the recent passage of an overhauled election law that increased the number of seats from 88 to 132.
A single election for president and the legislature took place in 1996. The next presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for 2001, but were delayed following the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Following Arafat's death, elections for the President of the Authority were announced for January 9, 2005. The PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas won 62.3% of the vote, while Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a physician and independent candidate, won 19.8%.
On May 10, 2004 the Palestinian Cabinet announced that municipal elections would take place for the first time. Elections were announced for August 2004 in Jericho, followed by certain municipalities in the Gaza Strip. In July 2004 these elections were postponed. Issues with voter registration are said to have contributed to the delay. Municipal elections finally took place for council officials in Jericho and 25 other towns and villages in the West Bank on December 23, 2004. On January 27, 2005, the first round of the municipal elections took place in the Gaza Strip for officials in 10 local councils. Further rounds in the West Bank took place in May 2005.
Elections for a new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) were scheduled for July 2005 by Acting Palestinian Authority President Rawhi Fattuh in January 2005. These elections were postponed by Mahmoud Abbas after major changes to the Election Law were enacted by the PLC which required more time for the Palestinian Central Elections Committee to process and prepare. Among these changes were the expansion of the number of parliament seats from 88 to 132, with half of the seats to be competed for in 16 localities, and the other half to be elected in proportion to party votes from a nationwide pool of candidates.
The following organizations, listed in alphabetic order, have taken part in recent elections inside the Palestinian National Authority:
On June 14, 2007, after the Battle of Gaza (2007), Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the Hamas led government, leaving the government under his control for 30 days, after which the temporary government has to be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The PNA divides the Palestinian territories into 16 governorates
In February 2004, it was reported that the European Union (EU) anti-fraud office (OLAF) was studying documents suggesting that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority had diverted tens of millions of dollars in EU funds to organizations involved in terrorist attacks, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. However, in August 2004, a provisional assessment stated that "To date, there is no evidence that funds from the non-targeted EU Direct Budget Assistance to the Palestinian Authority have been used to finance illegal activities, including terrorism.
A separate EU "Working Group" also issued a report in April 2004, adopted by a 7-6 vote, which covers the period from the end of 2000 to the end of 2002, stating that EU aid has not been siphoned off to Palestinian militants carrying out attacks on Israelis: "There is no conclusive evidence, to date, that the EU non-targeted direct budgetary support was used to finance illegal activities, including the financing of terrorism".
Furthermore, the EU has changed the way it funded the Palestinians and now uses targeted aid for specific purposes. From April 2003, money is only handed over if various conditions are met, such as the presentation of invoices for bills the Palestinians need to pay. The EU remains the biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority.
According the a ministrial statistic conducted in September 2005, there are 2,267 schools in general education, 31,001 classes, 1,078,488 students, and 48,674 teachers in the Palestinian territories. 24% of schools are UNRWA-operated, 70% are governmental, and 6% are private.
Another statistic conducted in May 2005 shows that there are 138,139 students enrolled in Higher Education Institutions. Between these students, 9,002 (6.5%) are in (community colleges), 6,034 (4.4%) in (University colleges), 46,453 (33.6%) in Al-Quds Open University, and 76,650 (55.5%) in traditional universities.
Erika Waak reports in The Humanist "Of the total number of Palestinian civilians killed during this period by both Israeli and Palestinian security forces, 16 percent were the victims of Palestinian security forces." Accusations of collaboration with Israel are used to target and kill individual Palestinians: "Those who are convicted have either been caught helping Israelis, spoken out against Arafat, or are involved in rival criminal gangs, and these individuals are hanged after summary trials. Arafat creates an environment where the violence continues while silencing would-be critics, and although he could make the violence impossible, he doesn't stop it."
Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2001-2002, reports "Civil liberties declined due to: shooting deaths of Palestinian civilians by Palestinian security personnel; the summary trial and executions of alleged collaborators by the Palestinian Authority (PA); extra-judicial killings of suspected collaborators by militias; and the apparent official encouragement of Palestinian youth to confront Israeli soldiers, thus placing them directly in harm's way.
Palestinian security forces have, as of March 2005, not made any arrests for the October 2003 killing of three American members of a diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip. Moussa Arafat, head of the Palestinian Military Intelligence and a cousin of then Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has stated that, regarding the United States pressure to arrest the killers; "They know that we are in a very critical position and that clashing with any Palestinian party under the presence of the occupation is an issue that will present many problems for us". Since the October 2003 attack, United States diplomats have been banned from entering the Gaza Strip.
It is claimed that some of the smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt and the Gaza Strip are controlled by one of the Palestinian Authority security services under Moussa Arafat's command. He is accused of receiving a portion of the profits derived from the smuggling tunnels.
During 2007 many Western and Christian targets were attacked in the West Bank and Gaza. Members of local gangs and terror cells blew up and destroyed institutions linked to Western culture such as American schools, church libraries and dozens of Internet cafes. These events were largely ignored by the media.
In February 2004 Ghassan Shaqawa (the mayor of Nablus) filed his resignation from office in protest of the Palestinian Authority's lack of action against the armed militias rampaging the city and the multiple attempts by some Palestinians to assassinate him. Gaza's police chief, General Saib al-Ajez, later would say: "This internal conflict between police and the militants cannot happen. It is forbidden. We are a single nation and many people know each other and it is not easy to kill someone who is bearing a weapon to defend his nation.
Through the first three months of 2004, a number of attacks on journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been blamed on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, most clearly the attack on the Arab television station Al-Arabiya's West Bank offices by masked men self-identifying as members of the Brigades. Palestinian journalists in Gaza called a general strike on February 9 to protest this rising violence against journalists.
Karen Abu Zayd, deputy commissioner general for the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip stated on February 29, 2004: "What has begun to be more visible is the beginning of the breakdown of law and order, all the groups have their own militias, and they are very organized. It's factions trying to exercise their powers.
Ghazi al-Jabali, the Gaza Strip Chief of Police, since 1994 has been the target of repeated attacks by Palestinians. In March 2004, his offices were targeted by gunfire. In April 2004, a bomb was detonated destroying the front of his house. In July 17, 2004, he was kidnapped at the at gunpoint following an ambush of his convoy and wounding of two bodyguards. He was released several hours later. Less than six hours later, Colonel Khaled Abu Aloula, director of military coordination in the southern part of Gaza was abducted.
On July 18, Arafat replaced Ghazi al-Jabali, with his nephew Moussa Arafat, sparking violent riots in Rafah and Khan Yunis in which members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades burned PA offices and opened fire on Palestinian policemen. During the riots at least one Palestinian was killed and dozen more seriously wounded.
On July 20, 2004 David Satterfield, the second-in-charge at the United States Department of State Near East desk stated in hearing before the Senate that the Palestinian Authority has failed to arrest the Palestinian terrorists who murdered three members of an American diplomatic convoy traveling in the Gaza Strip on October 15, 2003. Satterfield states:
On July 21, Nabil Amar, former Minister of Information and a cabinet member and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was shot by masked gunmen, after an interview to a TV channel in which he criticized Yasser Arafat and called for reforms in the PA.
On July 22, 2004, The United Nations elevated its threat warning level for the Gaza Strip to "Phase Four" (one less than the maximum "Phase Five") and plans to evacuate non-essential foreign staff from the Gaza Strip.
The firing of Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel is strongly opposed by those living closest to the firing location due to frequent Israeli military responses to Qassam rocket launches. On July 23, 2004, an Arab boy was shot and killed by Palestinian terrorists of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades after he and his family physically opposed their attempt to set up a Qassam rocket launcher outside the family's house. Five other individuals were wounded in the incident.
On July 25, 2004, 20 members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades seized the governor's office in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis. Among their demands are that Yasser Arafat's cousin, Moussa Arafat be dismissed from his post as chief of general security in Gaza. In a separate attack, unidentified persons stormed a police station and burned the structure causing extensive damage.
On July 31, Palestinian kidnappers in Nablus seized 3 foreign nationals, an American, British and Irish citizen. They were later released. Also, a PA security forces HQ building was burnt down in Jenin by the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. A leader of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said they torched the building because new mayor Qadorrah Moussa, appointed by Arafat, had refused to pay salaries to Al Aqsa members or to cooperate with the group.
On August 8, 2004 the Justice Minister Nahed Arreyes resigned stating that he has been stripped of much of his authority over the legal system. The year before, Yasser Arafat created a rival agency to the Justice Ministry and was accused of continuing to control the judiciary and in particular the state prosecutors.
On August 10, 2004, a report by an investigation committee Palestinian Legislative Council for the reasons for the anarchy and chaos in the PA was published by Haaretz daily newspaper. The report puts the main blame on Yasser Arafat and the PA's security forces, which "have failed to make a clear political decision to end it". The report states,
Despite the criticism against Yasser Arafat, the troubles continued. On August 24, the Lieutenant Commander of the Palestinian General Intelligence in the Gaza Strip, Tareq Abu-Rajab, was shot by group of armed men. He was seriously injured.
On August 31, the Jenin Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, threaten to kill Minister Nabil Shaath for participating in a conference in Italy attended by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, declaring "He will be sentenced to death if he enters. The decision cannot be rescinded, we call upon his bodyguards to abandon his convoy in order to save their lives.
On September 8, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, threatens to resign, again. Three weeks have elapsed since he retracted is resignation, originally tendered six weeks ago.
On October 12, Moussa Arafat, cousin of Yasser Arafat and a top security official in the Gaza Strip, survived a car bomb assassination attempt. Recently the Popular Resistance Committees threatened Moussa Arafat with retaliation for an alleged attempt to assassinate its leader, Mohammed Nashabat.
On October 14, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei stated that the Palestinian Authority is unable to stop the spreading anarchy. While routinely blaming Israel for the PA's problems, he pointed out that the many PA security forces are hobbled by corruption and factional feuding. Due to the lack of governmentals reforms demanded by international peace mediators, Palestinian legislators demanded Qurei present a report on the matter by October 20, at which point they will decide upon holding a no-confidence vote.