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Palestinian Authority

On 13 September 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Government of Israel signed the "Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements" at the White House in Washington DC. The Declaration was preceded by the exchange of letters of mutual recognition between the Government of Israel and the PLO on 09 September 1993. The two sides agreed on a framework for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the Middle East Peace Process with the aim of, among other things, "to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected council (the "Council"), for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)."

The PLO Central Council met in Tunisia, from 10 to 12 October 1993, and endorsed the acceptance of the agreement with Israel by an overwhelming majority of 63 to 8 with 9 abstentions. The Central Council also authorized the Executive Committee to form the Council of the Palestinian National Authority for the transitional period and chose Mr. Yasser Arafat as President of the Council of the Palestinian National Authority.

On 4 May 1994, the "Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area" was signed in Cairo by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, representing the Government of Israel, and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, representing the Palestinian people. Then, on 13 May 1994, the Israeli military authorities handed over the governing of the city of Jericho to representatives of the Palestinian Authority. On 18 May 1994, the last Israeli troops pulled out of Gaza City.

On 1 July 1994, Arafat returned to Gaza after 27 years of exile. He arrived to Gaza City after crossing from Egypt via Rafah, where he was greeted and received by tens of thousands of Palestinians. On 5 July Arafat took the oath of office and swore in 12 members of the Palestinian Authority, thus officially announcing the first cabinet.

Towards the end of December 1995, Israeli troops completed their redeployments outside Palestinian cities of the West Bank, with the exception of Al-Khalil (Hebron). On 20 January 1996, the first Palestinian general elections were held for the Presidency and an 88 member Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

The elections were generally free and fair. The first Palestinian Authority Cabinet to be formed after the elections was sworn in on 17 May 1996 and presented to and approved by the PLC on 27 June 1996. The law stipulates that 80% of the cabinet is to be composed of elected members of the PLC. The second cabinet was approved by the PLC on 9 August 1998, by a vote of 55 to 28 with 3 abstentions, after long debates and threats of tabling no-confidence motions. The new cabinet was extended to 32 members.

Up until his death, Yasser Arafat dominated the Palestinian government. Most senior government positions in the PA were held by individuals who are members of, or loyal to, Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Prior to the Intifada, the Council met regularly to discuss issues significant to the Palestinian people; however, it did not have significant influence on policy or the behavior of the executive. As the Intifada began and spread throughout the territories, Arafat invoked a state of emergency that granted him broad powers to make arrests, prohibit demonstrations, and take action against organizations that the PA suspected were affiliated with terrorist groups.

In the West Bank, pre-1967 Jordanian law and PA laws apply. In recent years, the PA had stated that it was undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza and West Bank legal codes; however, it has made little progress. The PA courts are perceived as inefficient, and the PA executive and security services frequently ignore or fail to carry out court decisions.

In West Bank Palestinian population centers, mostly “Area A” as defined by the Oslo-era agreements, containing 55 percent of the Palestinian population on approximately 18 percent of West Bank land area, the PA has formal responsibility for security and civil control. Since 2002, however, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israeli security forces have regularly conducted security operations in Area A cities, often without coordinating with PA security forces.

In “Area B” territory in the West Bank, which contained 41 percent of the population on approximately 21 percent of the territory, mostly small Palestinian villages and farmland, the PA has civil control, but Israel and the PA maintain joint security control. In “Area C,” which contains Israeli settlements, military installations, and 4 percent of the Palestinian population in small villages, farmland, and open countryside on approximately 61 percent of the land area, Israel retains full civil and security control.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), according to PA Basic Law, has an elected president and legislative council. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority in restricted areas of the West Bank due to the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) continuing presence, and none over Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem due to Israel’s extension of Israeli law and authority to East Jerusalem in 1967 and an Israeli prohibition on any PA activity anywhere in Jerusalem.

Although PA laws apply in the Gaza Strip, the PA had little authority in the Gaza Strip, despite the formation of an interim government under the auspices of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement signed in May that only nominally gave the PA some control over that territory. It has no authority over Israeli residents of the West Bank or Palestinian residents in Area C of the West Bank, over which Israel has security and civil control. The PA has only civil control of area B in the West Bank and joint security control with Israel.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah governed the West Bank. President Mahmoud Abbas, in office since elected to a four-year term in 2005, is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and general commander of the Fatah party. In the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, candidates backed by Hamas won 74 of 132 seats in elections that generally met democratic standards; however, the PLC has not functioned since 2007. In 2007 Hamas staged a violent takeover of PA government installations in the Gaza Strip and has since run a de facto government in the territory. Both PA and Israeli security forces reported to civilian authorities. Hamas maintained control of security forces in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas said on 12 October 2017 it had reached agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah after three days of reconciliation talks in Cairo. The divide between the parties has crippled Palestinian politics for 10 years and a major sticking point has been the existence of Hamas’s armed wing. Islamist movement Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007 following a dispute over elections, complicating any possibility of peace talks with Israel. But over the past year, the Palestinian rivals agreed to form and recognise what they call a national consensus government, and Hamas agreed three weeks earlier to hand over responsibility for the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah.

The Egyptian-sponsored efforts received much attention in October 2017, when Fatah and Hamas signed a preliminary unity agreement in Cairo, but almost immediately ran into trouble. Cairo was working in the interests of Muhammad Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief in Gaza now based in the United Arab Emirates, from where he draws significant support. Dahlan is a rival to Abbas for leadership of Fatah. Abbas is trying to avoid completing reconciliation as he knows that internal unity may pave the way for Dahlan to return. And if that happened it will be the end of Abbas.

Attempts to achieve a reconciliation with the Islamist movement collapsed when Hamdallah's motorcade was almost struck by a roadside bomb in Gaza on 13 March 2018. Mahmoud Abbas laid the blame squarely on Hamas, rejecting an offer of an investigation. A spokesperson for Hamdallah’s government instead again accused the group of bearing “full criminal responsibility” for the assassination attempt. “Once more, Hamas is going along the same path of … fabricating weak stories that make no sense,” the spokesperson, Youssef al-Mahmoud, said. The fact that no one was killed in an explosion that wounded seven guards prompted speculation that rather than an assassination attempt, the attack was meant more as a message.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on 10 March 2019, in a move seen as part of efforts to further isolate rival Islamist group Hamas. Abbas asked Shtayyeh, a member of the central committee of the Palestinian president's Fatah party, to form a new government. Some analysts viewed Shtayyeh’s appointment to replace outgoing prime minister Rami Hamdallah as part of Abbas's efforts to further isolate his political rivals from Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip. The previous government was formed during a period of improved relations and had the backing of Hamas. Shtayyeh’s government is instead likely to be dominated by Fatah, though other smaller parties will be represented. Hamas is not expected to be included.

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Page last modified: 19-03-2019 09:52:58 ZULU