Palestinian Authority

views updated May 29 2018


PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (pa, the Palestinian designation being Palestinian National Authority), semi-official, self-governing Palestinian body established in May 1994 in accordance with the Israel-plo Declaration of Principles (dop) signed on September 13, 1993 on behalf of the *Palestine Liberation Organization (plo). On its establishment the pa governed most of the Gaza Strip and the town of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, representing the first step in the implementation of the interim arrangements for Israeli withdrawal ("redeployment") from territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This process was to culminate in "permanent status talks" to begin in May 1996 on all major issues in dispute between the two parties (settlements, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and the final status of the pa and its territory). The dop agreement stipulated that the transfer of responsibilities to the pa would be completed within five years and would include education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, and tourism. It was also agreed that a Palestinian police force would be established in order to maintain internal security and prevent hostile acts of terror against Israel by the Palestinian population under its authority. Israel would retain overall authority for security and defense regarding all external threats, and particularly the safety of the Israeli settlers.

The Israel-plo negotiations that led to the establishment of the pa became possible following King Hussein's proclamation, on July 31, 1988, formally relinquishing Jordan's legal and administrative control over the Palestinian territories. After this act, the Palestinian National Council (pnc) unilaterally declared, at its November 1988 meeting in Algiers, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the UN partition resolution of November 1947. On May 17, 1994, Israel and the plo signed the Cairo Agreement. This elaborated the transfer of authority to the Palestinians as well as the security arrangements between the two sides. Soon after, the plo officially established the pa. It was the nucleus of a government apparatus, which assumed control of the Gaza Strip (excluding the Israeli settlements) and Jericho. Before the end of June of that same year, Yasser *Arafat arrived in Gaza to chair the pa. The interim agreement (Oslo ii), signed on September 28, 1995, between Israel and the pa, set the timetable and modalities for the later stages of the process. In accordance with this agreement, by late December 1995 the idf had withdrawn from five major towns in the West Bank (out of the six stipulated in the agreement) in preparation for elections to both the Palestinian Council and the office of pa chairman. Withdrawal from the city of Hebron was postponed by Shimon Peres's government as a consequence of terrorist attacks and growing Israeli public resentment of the Oslo process.

The interim agreement divided the West Bank into three jurisdictional zones:

Area a (3 percent of the West Bank territory), including the urban areas, under full Palestinian authority; Area b (27 percent of the West Bank), including a large part of the rural area, under Palestinian authority for all civil matters, including public order, and Israeli authority for security matters; and Area c, the rest, and most of the West Bank, including the settlements, the idf bases, the Jordan Valley, and the desert area – under full idf authority, except for personal law. In February 1995 the Higher State Security Court was established in Gaza. One of its first decisions was the abolition of the Israeli legal system (military and civilian) that had existed since the occupation of these territories in 1967. Instead, the previous legal system was applied – the Jordanian law in the West Bank and the British Mandatory law in the Gaza Strip. According to the interim agreement, both legal systems were to be valid in criminal and civil matters only. The agreement, however, left in force Israeli law in all three zones of the West Bank.

The pa held its first meeting on May 26, 1994, with 20 members of the temporary nominated forum (with the absence of its chairman, Yasser Arafat). The lion's share of the pa's bureaucracy initially came from plo headquarters in Tunis, though it was later complemented and probably outweighed by active local members of Fatah, the mainstream organization, many of whom had spent varying periods in Israeli prisons or in exile. The pa's new bureaucracy doubled the already existing apparatus of teachers and officials (about 20,000), who had been employed by the Israeli civil administration in the West Bank and Gaza. Furthermore, the pa created a huge body of various security and police forces, encompassing 25,000–30,000 men, mostly from previous Palestinian security apparatuses and military units. Within a short time the pa became the largest employer in the territory under its control. Furthermore, Palestinian dependence on external financial aid channeled through the pa gave the latter increased power, which would also be bolstered by its strategy of centralizing the economy.

Within less than two years, by building up official institutions of power, the pa managed to bring to bear policy-making capabilities and enforce order in a society that had never enjoyed self-government. This was mainly apparent in the emergence of numerous security organizations, all subordinated to Chairman Arafat but lacking coordination among them and fighting for power and financial allocations. In November 1994 the pa's security apparatus clashed with Islamist rioters at the Filastin Mosque in Gaza, killing a number of them. The riots were the result of accusations made by the Islamic Jihad that the pa had provided Israeli security apparatuses with intelligence that enabled it to eliminate one of its leaders. Similarly the pa had the upper hand in the clash with Jordan over the appointment to the prestigious position of mufti of Jerusalem. In October 1996 Arafat's security apparatus acted to enforce the appointment of Sheikh ʿIkrameh Sabri to this position and replace the Jordan-appointed Sheikh ʿAbdin.

In addition to establishing its radio and television authority, the pa also established its own print media organs. Apart from the independent daily al-Quds, which had been published in Jerusalem since 1968, two other daily newspapers were launched by the pa or at its behest in Ramallah in the West Bank in 1995. Al-Hayat al-Jadida ("The New Life") was founded by pa Cabinet member Nabil ʿAmr. The paper has been considered the pa's official organ. The other daily, al-Ayyam ("The Days"), was started by Akram Haniyya. In the summer of 1997 the pa also opened a stock exchange in which only companies registered in the pa areas could be listed. In the field of education the pa inherited eight universities and 15 colleges. By the late 1990s these institutes of higher education encompassed 71,000 students and 4,100 faculty members.

On January 20, 1996, the first elections to the Palestine (Legislative) Council (plc) and pa presidency took place under international supervision. Many participated – approximately 88 percent of eligible voters in Gaza and 70 percent in the West Bank. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem also participated in the elections, though in a much lower proportion. The Islamic Resistance Movement (*Hamas) officially boycotted the elections. In practice, however, the movement encouraged its adherents to cast their votes in favor of independent candidates – identified as Islamists – winning five seats in the plc. As expected, the Fatah list – shaped and backed by Yasser Arafat – won 49 of the total 88 seats in the plc (more than 55 percent). In addition, other independent Fatah candidates were elected, giving the movement 75 percent of the Council's seats.

Political opposition to the pa remained in disarray, having negligible impact, except for Hamas. The opposition, whose leaders and sources of political and financial support were based outside the Palestinian territory, had consisted of three main types and forms: (a) The Ten Front, a loose Syrian-based alignment of militant Palestinian groups, including: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (pflp); the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (dflp; in March 1999 it was expelled from the Front because of its leader's repeated statements recognizing the State of Israel); the Palestine Liberation Front (plf); Palestine Popular Struggle Front (ppsf); Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (pflp-gc), Palestine Revolutionary Communist Party, Fatah al-Intifada (Fatah of the Uprising), al-Sa'iqa, Hamas; and the Islamic Jihad; (b) Individuals like Haidar Abdel Shafi (who resigned his membership in the plc in 1996) and other Cabinet and Council members, most conspicuous of whom was Abdel Jawad Saleh, former mayor of al-Bireh and plo Executive member; c) plo mainstream figures in the Diaspora, such as Faruq al-Qaddoumi, head of the plo Political Department, who voiced his objections to the Oslo Agreement and its implementation by Arafat. Despite this opposition Qaddoumi not only retained his position but maintained his working relationship with Arafat and was considered the strongest candidate to succeed him as plo Chairman.

The pa's performance came under growing Israeli public criticism as a result of continued terrorist attacks on Israelis both in the occupied territories and within the Green Line, carried out mainly by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The debate in Israel about Arafat's policies turned increasingly toward the view that he had been avoiding decisive measures of repression against Islamist terrorism and its sponsors because he was not interested in putting an end to violence and in fact perceived it as a legitimate means of struggle even in the course of the Oslo process. Arafat was forced to take decisive measures against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad following the suicide bombings of February–March 1996 in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon. However, the scope of his measures then was never repeated. In fact, Arafat used the Islamic opposition as an instrument in the face of Israeli delays and procrastination in the peace process, using rapprochement and antagonism vis-à-vis his own opposition in accordance with his needs vis-à-vis Israel. In December 1995, prior to the elections to the plc slated for January, Arafat's delegates tacitly gave the green light to Hamas's leadership in Cairo to continue its attacks against Israel as long as it did not "embarrass" the pa, namely, did not leave signs that the action had been initiated from pa-controlled areas. Arafat's policy in this respect became a major obstacle in the peace process and a primary arguing point for all the opponents of the Oslo process in Israel. Another argument against the pa was the continued incitement against Israel in the pa's official media and school textbooks, perceived by many Israelis as a clear indication that the pa was not seeking peace and coexistence with Israel. This became apparent during Netanyahu's government (1996–99), which in the Wye Memorandum insisted on reciprocity in the implementation of the provisions of the agreement, making it conditional on putting an end to terrorism and incitement.

The main criticism of the Palestinian militant opposition organizations against the pa leadership revolved around the terms and modalities of the dop. In this view, Arafat had made excessive concessions to Israel, leaving important issues up in the air, dependent on Israel's good will, such as Jerusalem, the territory to be ceded to the pa, and most of all the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. Criticism against the pa within the Palestinian community, primarily in the West Bank, hinged on the dominant role played by the plo people arriving from Tunisia and other Arab states after capturing key positions at the expense of local inhabitants. This criticism may have been unjustified given the large number of local Palestinians in the pa's bureaucracy and yet it was and remained a dominant perception among many Palestinians. The international community of donors, which provided the bulk of the pa's budget, expressed similar concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability and the general financial management of the pa.

By 1997 internal criticism of the pa grew vehement, revolving around Arafat's authoritarian rule, the pa's centralized decision-making process, mismanagement of financial allocations, and growing manifestations of corruption, abuse of power, and human rights violations by the security agencies and senior officials of the pa. The campaign of criticism came from within Fatah itself, particularly the younger members of the plc. This led to the appointment of an investigative committee, whose report to the elected pa Council was submitted in the fall of 1997. The report revealed that $326 million (or 37 percent of the pa's budget) was unaccounted for due to fraud, corruption, and mismanagement. The report also recommended the dismissal of three cabinet members on grounds of corruption. Although the three resigned, Arafat refused to accept their resignations or adopt the report, even though he accepted it in principle. In August 1998, after much procrastination and pressures by the critics, Arafat announced a new cabinet, enlarged by ten new members, leaving the three ministers charged with corruption in place and shifting the three leading critics within the cabinet to posts without portfolios. Though the new cabinet won a vote of confidence in the plc, 28 members voted against it, of whom 11 were Fatah members. The reshuffle led to the resignation from the cabinet of the minister of agriculture, Abdel Jawad al-Saleh, and the minister of higher education, Hanan Ashrawi.

The foundation of the pa, along with the elections to its Council, finally shifted the center of gravity of Palestinian politics from the Diaspora to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. This centralization came to the fore in Arafat's dual role as chairman of the plo Executive Committee and pa chairman. This initially drew the criticism of many Palestinians, especially among the West Bank intellectual elite. However, this criticism diminished with the growing use of coercive means by the pa, along with policies of control, containment, and cooption of existing non-government organizations and institutions of higher education.

From the outset, the pa's existence was marked by dependence on external financial sources, due to the urgent need for infrastructure and economic development. To insure the implementation of the Oslo Agreement, in October 1993, the major economic powers (particularly the U.S., Canada, the European Community, and Japan) met under the auspices of the World Bank to devise plans for financial aid to the pa. Pledges made in late 1993 reached $2.4 billion over four years (by late 1997 the total amount of pledges had reached $3.68 billion), of which a total of $1.8 billion was provided in two main forms: long-term projects for infrastructure, industry, and other development purposes; and short-term, stopgap measures such as creating new jobs to curtail unemployment and cover budgetary deficits. The World Bank founded the Holst Fund (named after late Norwegian Foreign Minister Jorgen Holst) to marshal the short-term aid. (This was originally intended to operate until late 1997, but was extended to 1998.) An Ad Hoc Liaison Committee was set up to monitor the disbursement process, while the plo established pecdar (the Palestine Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction) as the main vehicle for economic policy. For the first three projects of the World Bank's Emergency Assistance Program (eap), which were approved in May 1994, donors pledged an immediate $42 million. However, problems arose soon after the funds started flowing to the pa. There were discrepancies in accountability and transparency concerning the way the financial aid was being spent. A number of pa ministries contended for primacy, including the plo political department headed by Farouq Qaddoumi. Other problems were caused by external economic circumstances such as the Israeli curfews, roadblocks, and closures of Palestinian cities, imposed because of terrorist acts perpetrated by the Islamic opposition movements. The closures had an immediate effect on the Palestinian population's ability to pay their taxes to the pa. Moreover, the PA-Israel economic agreement signed in 1994 in Paris remained mostly unimplemented. All this came against the backdrop of years of uprising (Intifada) and the large-scale expulsion of Palestinians from the Gulf states since 1990, reducing remittances from these Arab countries. Thus, much of the aid flowing to the pa was spent to make good the plo's deficits. In response the donor nations tended to hold back further sums. In August 1994, the UN appointed Terje Larsen, who had been the initiator of the Oslo academic track negotiations, as the envoy in charge of the disbursement of funds in Gaza. Larsen's plan included a new mechanism for controlling the funds through committees composed of representatives of both the pa and the donor countries. All the committees were to be devoted to key areas, such as the creation of jobs, education, infrastructure, etc. Private Palestinian investors are another source of investment in the pa. They come mainly from Jordan, but there are also some from elsewhere in the Diaspora. In 1993, Padico (Palestinian Development and Investment Company) was founded with a capital of $200 million. This initiative helped build factories and some tourist projects with the financial aid of Palestinians, Jordanian banks, and U.S. and Egyptian companies. Following the interim agreement in September 1995, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher hosted an Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (ahlc) aimed at creating a framework for increased assistance to the pa by the European countries. More specifically, it meant to support projects that addressed infrastructure needs and created employment opportunities for Palestinians. However, prospects for a larger scope of private investment by Palestinians faded because of the pa's centralized economy and the sense of insecurity caused by terrorist attacks and closures. These obstacles to sustained economic development culminated in the virtual halt of the Oslo process after the formation of a right-wing government in Israel headed by Binyamin Netanyahu (May 1996).

The Netanyahu term as prime minister led to significant erosion of pa trust in Israeli intentions regarding the future implementation of the dop. The Hasmonean Tunnel riots of September 1996 (in which the Palestinians lost 79 people) essentially set the tone for the next two years of Netanyahu's stay in power, despite the agreements the latter signed with Arafat – the Hebron Agreement (January 1997) and the Wye Memorandum (October 1998). While the Hebron Agreement was fully implemented, the Wye Memorandum, which accounted for further Israeli redeployments in order to bring about the final status talks, was only partly implemented. In addition, other issues on the agenda remained long-delayed, such as the release of prisoners from Israeli prisons, opening the "safe passage" from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and building a harbor and airport in the Gaza Strip (the latter was finally opened in 1998). At the same time, the economic conditions of the Palestinian population constantly deteriorated due to repeated closures imposed by Israel following terrorist attacks on its civilians inside the "Green Line." The advent of a Labor-led government headed by Ehud *Barak in May 1999 raised Palestinian expectations for rapid progress in the peace-making process. However, the continued delay in implementing further Israeli deployments and fear that Barak was trying to gain time and achieve a settlement with Syria first sowed increasing doubts about the prospects for a breakthrough in the Oslo process.

The combination of growing economic depression and continued diplomatic stalemate aggravated the pa's problem of legitimacy and played a significant role in shaping its political conduct. Arafat's legitimacy problem was clearly manifested by the growing opposition within his own organization, Fatah. It is in this context that from the fall of 1998 Arafat made repeated declarations regarding his intention to proclaim an independent Palestinian state by May 4, 1999 (the deadline for reaching a final status agreement). These declarations, apparently meant to pressure Israel into moving faster in implementing further redeployments in the West Bank, met with widespread international objections and forced Arafat to back down from such a unilateral measure. However, this was another setback for the pa and for Arafat personally, further eroding his standing. In November 1999, 20 academics and members of the plc – including Fatah members – signed a declaration condemning the peace process as a conspiracy against Palestinian national aspirations and accusing pa leaders of corruption and oppression. Although Arafat was not directly blamed for the stalemate and corruption, this petition was yet another indication of the growing impatience among Palestinians with the pa's performance on both the diplomatic and economic fronts.

In December 1999–January 2000 the pa enjoyed a temporary respite due to the celebration of the new millennium. In the previous years both Israel and the pa had made efforts to prepare for expected waves of pilgrims and tourists, with not much coordination, though each side invested a great deal of financial and administrative effort in these preparations (the number of hotel rooms in Bethlehem was doubled within two years). In March, Arafat hosted Pope *John Paul in his visit to pa-controlled Bethlehem.

In view of the failure of the Camp David summit and subsequent American mediation efforts to bring about an agreed-upon Framework Agreement for Permanent Status, the growing Palestinian frustration culminated in the eruption of the al-Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000. Though the riots began in response to the visit of Ariel *Sharon to the Temple Mount, the continued violence and its encouragement by Arafat pointed to the underlying causes, namely, frustration over the stalemated Oslo process and over the pa's conduct as a governing institution. After the outbreak of the violence dozens of representatives of the multi-factional Intifada leadership met with Arafat and urged him to declare war against corruption. The demand to stop the embezzlement of funds led to the assassination of the head of the pa's broadcasting service, allegedly on grounds of transferring funds to his personal account. The perpetrators, identified with Fatah's armed branch (tanzim), were never prosecuted. These events had some effect on the willingness of potential donors to continue providing funds to the pa. Thus, the Arab League refused to transfer millions of dollars in aid to the pa out of fear that top officials would get their hands on the money. Western donors, however, while reducing aid transfers, also changed priorities in aid commitments. Thus, less funds were disbursed for direct budget needs and more was allocated for specific projects and emergency aid.

The continued violence and Israeli reprisals – directed at the pa's offices, security headquarters, police stations, prisons, and, finally, the symbols of authority connected with Arafat himself, brought about a steady and systematic destruction of the pa's capabilities and risked its very existence. Under Sharon's leadership, Israeli policies toward Arafat became more vehemently hostile. The growing terrorist attacks by Palestinians of all factions, with Fatah taking the lead, and unprecedented understanding of Israel's need to fight terrorism following the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington and the capture of Karin a, a boat manned by Palestinian security personnel loaded with arms provided and financed for by Iran, led Israel to intensify its attacks on the pa's symbols of authority. In December the government declared Arafat "irrelevant" after placing him under virtual house arrest at his headquarters in Ramallah and preventing his arrival in Bethlehem for the Christmas Mass at the Church of the Nativity. This was followed by Israeli statements, especially from right-wing politicians, expressing the wish to expel or get rid of Arafat, ostensibly in order to allow an alternative leadership to take over with whom Israel could negotiate. The deterioration of security in Israeli cities due to the increasing wave of suicide bombings culminated in Israel's invasion of pa areas and the "isolation" of Arafat in his office while it raided Palestinian cities, refugee camps, and villages throughout April 2002 in order to destroy the terrorist infrastructure.

Although the Israeli incursion ("Operation Defensive Shield") temporarily shifted international criticism from Arafat to Israel, it brought the pa to its lowest point ever, leaving in its wake tremendous destruction and disarray after four weeks of operations, a heavy Israeli military presence around the cities of the West Bank and continuous Israeli military raids to destroy the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Henceforth, Palestinian terrorism was reduced considerably in the West Bank.

[Avraham Sela (2nd ed.)]

From this point on, international pressure, driven mostly by President Bush, who was stunned by Arafat's complicity in the Karin A affair with the Iranian "axis of evil," aimed at marginalizing and ultimately removing Arafat from political life. Under the banner of reforming the pa, the United States and eventually the European Union insisted that a position of prime minister be established responsible for reform, chiefly to unify the dozen or so security forces in the pa;, that a technocrat with international experience and reputation be made finance minister; and that all revenue and expenditure, especially the payroll of pa personnel, be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. Arafat was known for personally paying security personnel and other public servants; this state of affairs made it difficult if not impossible to ensure that international aid, which accounted for over 60 percent of pa revenue, would not be diverted to terrorism. United States pressure came in the form of inaction; it henceforth hardly criticized Israeli military moves directed against Palestinian terrorism and was only slightly more assertive when Israel began building the security fence in July 2002, mostly in territory within Judea and Samaria. Along with the stick, however, came an important carrot. In a speech in June 2002, President Bush for the first time committed the United States to the establishment of a Palestinian state. According to the roadmap plan based on the speech sanctioned by Russia, the European Union, and Egypt on September 17, 2002, the pa was to begin dismantling Palestinian terrorist organizations in its midst. Israel would then withdraw its forces from areas "a" in the West Bank, paving the way for the establishment, no later than the end of 2003, of an interim internationally recognized Palestinian state. Final status negotiations would then ensue. Theplan envisioned a permanent Palestinian state by 2005.

For a leader like Arafat, permanently besieged in the muqataʿa in Ramallah by Israeli tanks, the thrust of the roadmap was hardly good news; trying to dismantle fighting organizations, most notably the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades and *Hamas, could mean civil war, while reform would undermine if not destroy his political base. And all this to achieve an interim state with 42 percent of the territory, when he could have had a permanent state with over 96 percent of the territories in the Camp David summit in July 2000. Already by May 2002, at a conference in Ramallah, major Palestinian civic leaders were calling for a united command of the factions, including Hamas; In Gaza, half-measures to curtail Hamas terrorist attacks had led in September 2002 to the murder of the head of the riot prevention squad, a lieutenant-colonel, by Hamas activists and though the killers were known, local security personnel were not willing to arrest them. Arafat was slowly losing his legendary grip on Palestinian politics. Gaza, where terrorism against settlers and across the Green Line increased between 2002 and 2005 in contrast to its reduction in Judea and Samaria, also became the scene of increasing internal lawlessness expressed in the rising frequency of fights between Hamas and Fatah, inter-Fatah violence and the kidnapping of foreigners and officials. Lawlessness reached its height in July 2004 when Arafat, ostensibly as part of the reform package of uniting the security forces, appointed Musa Arafat, the head of military intelligence loathed by Fatah activists, as director of security in Gaza. Fatah activists in large numbers turned against their leader for the first time with massive violence against security personnel for over two weeks. Musa Arafat faced two assassination attempts and eventually was murdered in a raid on his home in September 2005.

Though powerless to prevent the creation of the new office of prime minister given to Mahmud Abbas in April 2003 and the appointment of Salam Fayyad, a respected economist and former senior official in the World Bank, as minister of finance, Arafat succeeded in preventing both the unification of the security forces and the payment of security personnel in the official payroll, leading Mahmud Abbas to resign in September 2003. Needless to say, Arafat's death in November 2004 left his successor as head of the plo and pa, Mahmud Abbas, with a difficult legacy.

To enhance his authority without too much loss of legitimacy and to buy time until he could rebuild the pa's security forces, Abbas decided to hold presidential elections first and postpone legislative elections until later. His strategy seemed to be successful when the young guard leader of Fatah, Marwan Barghuti, first decided from an Israeli jail to contest the presidency and then withdrew under public pressure, allowing Abbas to win nearly 80 percent of the vote in the elections of January 9, 2005. After the elections, however, Abbas, a senior bureaucratic official without any "fighting" past, seemed to lose the opportunity to assert his authority; besides forcing some aging and ineffective senior security personnel to retire, Abbas did very little to get security personnel to act. Though they abounded on the payroll (an estimated 50,000 received salaries, they were not willing to restore law and order in Gaza, which after total Israeli withdrawal in the summer of 2005 became the litmus test of the pa's capabilities to govern. To some extent, the results of four rounds of local elections conducted through 2005, in which Hamas affiliated lists did better than those affiliated to Fatah, were an indication of the pa's ability and the leader at its head to improve governance. The crushing blow came in the January 2006 legislative elections, when Hamas won a parliamentary majority that gave it effective control of the pa apparatus. Given this new reality, coupled with the considerable lawlessness in the pa and the novelty of a weak leader at the helm of a political entity in the Middle East, in 2006 the pa's fate, along with the future of Palestinian statehood, remained in question. (For Israel's subsequent clashes with Hamas, see *Israel, State of: Historical Survey.)

[Hillel Frisch (2nd ed.)]


G.E. Robinson, Building a Palestinian State, the Unfinished Revolution (1997); H. Frisch, "The Palestinian Strategic Debate over the Intifada," in: Terrorism and Political Violence, 15:2 (Summer 2003), 1–20; A. Jamal, Media Politics And Democracy In Palestine: Political Culture, Pluralism, and the Palestinian Authority (2005); H. Frisch, Countdown to Statehood: Palestinian State Formation in the West Bank and Gaza (1998); "Jews, Israel and Peace in the Palestinian Authority Textbooks: The New Textbooks for Grade 4 and 9," compiled and translated by Arnon Groiss (2004); B.M. Rubin, Barry and J.C. Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography (2005); "A Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," at:

Palestinian Authority

views updated May 11 2018

Palestinian Authority






The establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994 was a culmination of a process dating back to the Madrid Conference of October 1991 when Israelis and Palestinians engaged in official direct negotiations for the first time. The Declaration of Principles (DOP), which was officially signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in September 1993 in Washington, D.C., gradually led to Palestinian self-government in about 42 percent of the West Bank and the whole Gaza Strip.


The DOP, also known as the Oslo Accords, are the first sustained effort sponsored by the international community led by the United States and Russia to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. The marginalization of the PLO after the first Gulf War and the impacts of the first intifada (a Palestinian uprising directed against Israel) on Israeli perceptions of the Palestinians made both sides more willing than ever to directly negotiate with each other. The DOP was based on the Israeli recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in exchange for the PLOs recognition of the State of Israel.

The DOP envisioned the creation of Palestinian autonomous government in Gaza and the West Bank as a three-stage process in five years. The Cairo agreement between Israel and the PLO in 1994 established Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and the West Bank city of Jericho. The second stage was initiated with the signing of the Oslo 2 Accord in September 1995 when Palestinian self-rule was extended to the West Bank, which was divided into three zones. PA would control all civilian and security affairs in Zone A, which would cover cities populated by the Palestinians. Zone B would consist of Palestinian villages, and Israel would have final authority in external security in this zone. Zone C would include Jewish settlements, strategic roads, and sparsely populated areas (which made up 70 percent of the West Bank) and would remain under Israeli control. There were no restrictions on the further expansion of Jewish settlements in this zone. While the PA gained control of about 30 percent of the West Bank, only 3 percent of this area was in Zone A.

The Oslo Process continued with additional agreements in the 1990s. The Hebron Agreement in January 1997 divided the city of Hebron into two and resulted in the redeployment of Israeli soldiers to a smaller section of the city. In October 1998 Israel and the Palestinians signed the Wye Memorandum that called for further redeployment of the Israeli military in the West Bank and the PA to fight against terrorism against Israel. The third and final stage was originally scheduled to take place in 1999 and would have led to a peace treaty solving all core issues, such as the status of East Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, refugees, security arrangements, and water rights. While Palestinians consider East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem, refused to relinquish its sovereignty over the city. Israel and the Palestinians reasserted their commitment to the resumption of permanent status negotiations by signing the Sharm el-Sheik Memorandum in September 1999. However the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000 ultimately derailed the process.

The creation of the PA was a major step toward the fulfillment of Palestinian national aspirations. However the PLOs recognition of Israel and the Oslo Process did not enjoy universal approval among Palestinians. A rejectionist front that included Hamas and Islamic Jihad denounced the Oslo Process. Terrorist attacks by militant Palestinian groups and Israeli retaliations undermined the process and fueled the mutual suspicions between Israel and the Palestinians. Furthermore, the Palestinian support of diplomatic negotiations with Israel was not sustainable. The partial Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank did not necessarily translate into independence, security, freedom of action, and economic well-being for the Palestinians. The PA was not sovereign and was highly dependent on Israeli cooperation for its survival. It had no control over its external borders, customs, airspace, water, and minerals. Israel collected the PAs custom duties, taxed Palestinian citizens working in Israel on behalf of the PA, and remained the market for its export and the source of its imports. Foreign assistance made a substantial portion of the PAs budget. From the Israeli perspective, the main task of the PA was the establishment of order and security in the Palestinian territories and the end of attacks against Israeli military and citizens. From the Palestinian perspective, the Oslo Process would ultimately result in the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. By 2000 neither side achieved its goals.


The DOP specified that free and general elections should be organized in the West Bank and Gaza to enable the Palestinians to govern themselves according to democratic principles. The elections for the Palestinian legislative council (PLC) and the presidency took place in January 1996 after Israeli military withdrew from Zones A and B in December 1995. Yasser Arafat (19292004), who was the leader of both Fatah (the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, a branch of the PLO) and the PLO, was elected president by capturing around 88 percent of the vote. Fatah dominated the legislative council elections, which was boycotted by Hamas, by capturing a majority of the seats.

Despite having popular legitimacy, the PA was characterized by authoritarian practices. Power was personalized in the hands of Arafat who thwarted the PLCs attempts to make him more accountable and to end his ruling by decree. While the PLC ratified the Basic Law in 1997, which was intended as an interim constitution, Arafat did not ratify it for five years. He populated senior positions mostly with comrades from Fatah who had been in exile for decades at the expense of local leaders and grassroots organizations. The tension between outsiders, who did not participate in the intifada, and insiders, who had public support, fostered discontent with the PA. Public positions were distributed according to personal connections, histories, family relations, and patronage considerations. Distinction between personal and public budget blurred and the administration was beset by widespread corruption and incompetent management. The establishment of multiple layers of security forces facilitated the suppression of dissent. The PAs intimidation of the Palestinian press contributed to the rise of self-censorship. The PA entered into strategic alliances with local notables by co-opting and assigning them positions in the administration. All these practices diminished the prospects for a vibrant civil society and eroded the rule of law.

The PAs obligations to Israel and the Palestinian people were hardly compatible. On the one hand, Israel demanded the PA to prevent security threats to Israeli civilians and military from the areas it controlled. On the other, Palestinians expected that the establishment of the PA would stop Israeli incursions, blockades, and expansion of settlements. The PAs performance in combating attacks against Israeli targets was not satisfactory for Israel and the latter continued its policies of retaliation and intimidation against the Palestinians. As a result both Palestinian and Israeli support for the PA diminished.


The official deadline for conclusion of Israeli-Palestinian formal settlement negotiations passed on May 4, 1999. It appeared to all parties that the Oslo Process was reaching a dead end. In July 2000 U.S. president Bill Clinton invited Arafat and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to a summit at Camp David to achieve a breakthrough. However, the summit was terminated without an agreement. After the Israeli Likud leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, sacred for both Muslims and Jews, in September 2000, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank rioted. Younger generation Fatah members created Tanzim, an armed wing of Fatah, and confronted the Israeli military. The Oslo Process was in shambles. The conflict escalated to a new level in April 2002 when Israel conducted Operation Defensive Shield and reoccupied the parts of the West Bank and Gaza it had previously withdrawn from. Arafat was surrounded in his compound in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Israel accused Arafat of igniting the intifada and sponsoring terrorism and demanded his dismissal. In the same year, Sharon who won the Israeli elections in 2001, began constructing a barrier intended to separate the Palestinian West Bank from Israel and stop suicide terrorism employed by the militant Palestinian groups. As a result of Israeli operations and blockades the PA was in crisis. Unemployment skyrocketed among the Palestinians and the economy collapsed. Meanwhile, U.S. president George W. Bush declared that he would conditionally support the establishment of a Palestinian state in June 2002. His conditions included a comprehensive reform of the PA, the replacement of Arafat, and Palestinian agreement to a ceasefire. In 2003 the PLC amended the Basic Law as part of the reform initiative. A post of prime minister was created and the number of seats in the PLC was increased from 88 to 132. Arafat appointed Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister and gave away some of his extensive powers to him in March 2003. However, Abbas resigned in October complaining about his lack of power.


Bushs declaration ultimately resulted in the Road Map for Peace, which was released in April 2003. The Road Map was issued by the Quartetthe United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nationsand was intended to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005. It required the PA to make democratic reforms and end its support of terrorism. The conditions seemed positive for progress toward peace negotiations as two developments in 2004 abated the level of violence. In February 2004 Sharon announced that Israel would unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, and in November 2004 Arafat died. Following Arafats death, presidential elections were held in January 2005. Hamas boycotted the elections and Marwan Barghouti, who was a popular leader of Tanzim, retired from the race several weeks before voting was to occur. Consequently, the Fatah candidate Abbas easily won the elections with 62 percent of the votes cast. Abbass election to the presidency led to a thaw in relations with the United States and Israel. A month after his election, he met with Sharon and they both declared their commitment to work together to end the violence. In May Abbas visited the White House and received Bushs support for an independent Palestine and promise of direct aid in exchange for the PAs crackdown on terrorism. In August Israel dismantled the Jewish settlements and disengaged from Gaza.

The second Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections were originally scheduled for 2001; however, the elections were indefinitely delayed after the outbreak of violence. After the death of Arafat in November 2004, Palestinian factions met in Cairo, Egypt, in March 2005 to discuss how to replace him. Fatah consented to have elections, and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire with Israel. After the adoption of a new electoral system the same month, the parliamentary elections eventually took place in January 2006. This time Hamas did not boycott the elections and defeated Fatah by capitalizing on public discontent with the PAs past ten-year performance. Hamas captured 74 of the 132 seats to Fatahs 45 seats in the PLC. Hamas formed a new cabinet in March and Ismail Haniya became the prime minister. The relationship between Hamas and Fatah remained tense and skirmishes took place between militants in October 2006.

Hamas, which does not officially recognize Israel, isolated the PA in the international arena and ended the thaw between the PA and Israel. The U.S. administration refused to deal with Hamas until it renounced its terrorist tactics and recognized Israels right to existence. Both the United States and the European Union cut all aid to the PA, and Israel declined to hand over tax receipts it had collected on behalf of the PA. As a result the PA was unable to pay the salaries of its civil servants, which had disastrous consequences for Palestinian society. In June 2006 Israeli military reentered Gaza following an attack that killed two Israeli soldiers and abducted one. Israel detained Hamas members including ministers and PLC representatives. This most recent conflict further undermined the prospects for diplomatic negotiations between the PA and Israel.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israeli War of 1967; Arabs; Arafat, Yasir; Bush, George W.; Colonialism; Jews; Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); Palestinians; Peace Process; Sharon, Ariel


Brown, Nathan J. 2003. Palestinian Politics after the Oslo Accords: Resuming Arab Palestine. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Khalidi, Rashid. 2006. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Boston: Beacon.

Khan, Mushtaq Husain, ed., with George Giacaman, and Inge Amundsen. 2004. State Formation in Palestine: Viability and Governance during a Social74 Transformation. New York: RoutledgeCurzon.

Klein, Menachem. 2003. By Conviction, Not by Infliction: The Internal Debate Over Reforming the Palestinian Authority. Middle East Journal 57 (2): 194212.

Parsons, Nigel. 2004. The Politics of the Palestinian Authority: From Oslo to al-Aqsa. New York: Routledge.

Robinson, Glenn E. 1997. Building a Palestinian State: The Incomplete Revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Rubin, Barry. 1999. The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shikaki, Khalil. 2006. Sweeping Victory: Uncertain Mandate. Journal of Democracy 17 (3): 116130.

Gunes Murat Tezcur

Palestinian Authority

views updated May 17 2018


Interim Palestinian government, established under the terms of the Oslo Accords. It was created by a decree of 12 October 1993 of the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and established in May 1994, in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA)'s mandate was to administer the partial autonomy in the Occupied Territories for the five-year period specified in the Oslo Accords, at which time agreed-upon governmental powers and territory were to have been transferred and a final settlement negotiated. It was understood, though not stated, that the final settlement would result in the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. Under the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, the PA officially has control over both security and civil matters in certain designated ("A") areas and over civil matters only in other ("B") areas; Israel retains full control over the remaining ("C") areas. In practice the degree of Palestinian control of a given place has depended on whether the Israelis are in occupation at a given time. The PA maintains a number of armed Palestinian security forces (including a paramilitary police force), which report to Yasir Arafat directly, rather than through a PA chain of command. Some of these are responsible, essentially, for meeting Israel's "security needs" by controlling anti-Israel activity. They are the objects of frequent attack by Israel. Others are used to keep political opposition to the PLO leadership under control and are frequently deployed against Palestinian political organizations.

At the time of its establishment the PA administration was comprised of the following members: Yasir Arafat (president and minister of the interior; al-Fatah), Muhammad Zuhdi Nashashibi (Finance and Agriculture; Independent), Yasir Amr (Education and Teaching; Independent), Yasir Abd Rabbo (Culture; Fida), Ahmad Sulayman Qurai (Economy and Commerce; Fatah), Abdul Hafi al-Ashab (Communications; pro–Palestinian People's Party), Samir Ghosheh (Labor; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), Intisar al-Wazir (Social Affairs; Fatah), Nabil Shaʿth (Planning and Cooperation; Fatah), Zakariya al-Agha (Housing; Fatah), Elias Freij (Tourism; Independent), Riyad al-Zaʿnun (Health; Independent), Freih Abu Middein (Justice; Fatah), Saib Erekat (Local Communities; Fatah), Abdelaziz al-Haj Ahmad (Transportation), Azmi Shuaibi (Sports and Youth; Fida), Jamil Tarifi (Civil Service; Fatah), Sheikh Hasan Tahbub (Religious Affairs). Faysal al-Husayni was named minister without portfolio, in charge of the Jerusalem issue. In January 1996 elections were held for the presidency—Arafat won in a landslide—and for the newly created legislature, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC); in May, a cabinet reshuffle brought about the departure of some ministers who had just won seats and the arrival of others who until then had refused to be part of the PA, such as Hanan Ashrawi, named minister of higher education. In 1996 a Likud government was elected in Israel, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which did not believe in the Oslo peace process, and in fact the process has never recovered, changing the role of the PA. On 23 May 1997, an internal audit pegged the cost of management "errors" by the PA at $326 million, and a number of ministers were accused of embezzlement. On 5 August, the PA was reorganized again on the recommendation of the Legislative Council.

The International Monetary Fund and especially the European Union (EU), the largest outside financial contributor to the PA, have also been concerned over corruption and diversion of funds in the PA and have conducted investigations and demanded reforms, some of which have been made. It is known that millions of dollars of PA funds have gone either into the pockets of corrupt officials, their friends, and families, or to Palestinian groups outside the PA structure that have engaged in anti-Israel activities, including terrorism. Since these facts were uncovered, the EU has chosen to donate only in the form of specific grants for particular purposes. Corruption and ineffective and undemocratic government have also grown as issues among the Palestinian population, particularly since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. Thanks to the increased violence and economic disruptions, the Israeli reoccupation and its continuing land confiscation, road and settlement building and the building of the "Apartheid wall," the people living in the occupied territories are increasingly angry, and younger people in particular have been alienated from the PA, seen as unrepresentative and ineffective, at best, against the Israelis.

In the spring of 2002 the Israelis invaded Ramallah, where the PA is headquartered, placed Arafat under house arrest, and destroyed buildings all around him, holding him hostage for months. In 2004, he is unable to travel, for fear the Israelis will prevent his return. In April 2003 Arafat bowed to American and Israeli pressure and appointed a (figurehead) prime minister, Mahmud Abbas, who was replaced by Ahmad Qurai in September. In the summer of 2004 there were a number of kidnappings of and threats to PA officials by a variety of groups. The most serious incident came in July when a revolt was threatened in Gaza if Arafat did not withdraw the appointment of his brother as security chief there. After several days, he did.

SEE ALSO Abbas, Mahmud Rida;Agha, Zakariya al-;Aqsa Intifada, al-;Arafat, Yasir;Ashrawi, Hanan;Fatah, al-;Erekat, Saib Muhammad;Netanyahu, Benjamin;Oslo Accords;Palestinian Legislative Council;Palestine Liberation Organization;Qurai, Ahmad Sulayman;Shaʿth, Nabil Ali Mohamed;Wazir, Intisar al-.

Palestinian Authority

views updated May 23 2018


autonomous palestinian government operating in parts of the west bank and gaza starting from 1994.

The September 1993 Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called for the establishment of a Palestinian Interim Self-Governing Authority (PISGA) in those parts of the West Bank and Gaza from which Israeli forces would eventually withdraw. Israel would then cede certain autonomous powers to the PISGA pending a final peace settlement. This concept was actualized by the subsequent May 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement that led to an initial Israeli withdrawal from those two areas and that created the Palestinian Authority (PA), which would exercise autonomous powers until an elected Palestinian council could replace it. PLO Chair Yasir Arafat and a body of PLO cadres were allowed to return from exile and form the 24-member council of ministers that made up the PA, which commenced functioning in July 1994.

The September 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the PLO laid the basis for further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and for an elected Palestinian Council that would wield both legislative and, through its executive authority, executive powers. Following elections, the Palestinian Council and the president of its executive authority would thereafter assume the powers of Palestinian self-government from the PA, although in fact the new governmental structure that emerged continued to use the same name. Elections for the 88-seat council and its president were held in January 1996. Arafat won the presidency decisively. Chief PLO negotiator Ahmad Sulayman Qurai (also Qurei, Quray, Abu Ala) was elected as the first speaker of the council.

After further redeployments of Israeli forces starting in late 1995, the PA exercised different levels of authority in the West Bank and Gaza. By early 1997 it exercised full control over Gaza excluding the areas in and around Israeli settlements. The situation in the West Bank was more complicated. Israeli forces had only withdrawn from about 27 percent of the territory. The PA exercised full civil and security control over Area A, which included all of the major towns except Jerusalem (which remained under total Israeli control). It controlled civil matters in Area Bmost other Palestinian villages and inhabited sitesbut shared security functions with Israel. Finally, Area C remained under complete Israeli authority. Not only was the total area under full or partial PA control less than a third of the West Bank, it was divided among hundreds of separate Area A and B enclaves that were cut off from one another (and from Gaza) by Israeli-controlled Area C.

A burgeoning bureaucracy grew to enable the PA to govern. By early 1997 PA ministries and departments controlled many aspects of daily life for Palestinians. The PA even issued passports and postage stamps, and dispatched a two-man team to the 1996 Olympic Games. A multitude of competing security and intelligence agencies developed. Security forces comprised former soldiers of the PLO's exile Palestine Liberation Army, other exiles, and locally recruited men. These agencies included the National Security Forces; Civil Police; Border Police; Coastal Police; Civil Defense; University Police; and Arafat's own guard, Force 17/Presidential Guard. Intelligence agencies included the General Security Service; Military Intelligence; Special Security Force; and the powerful Preventative Security Forces, headed in Gaza by Muhammad Dahlan and in the West Bank by Jibril Rajub.

Even after the Palestinian Council began meeting, Arafat continued to rule in an authoritarian fashion through the security and intelligence services and his new twenty-two-member executive council (cabinet). The judiciary was not independent; Arafat's government sometimes simply ignored its rulings, and certain cases were decided by secret military courts. Arafat possessed the authority to veto council legislation. As calls for reform mounted, important legislators such as Haydar Abd al-Shafi resigned, and Marwan Barghuthi introduced a no-confidence motion in the council in April 1997.

Palestinian demands for change combined with outside pressures for reform. Israeli and U.S. anger over terrorist attacks by groups such as HAMAS and Islamic Jihad that were based in the PA led to mounting international pressure on Arafat to crack down on militants and to change PA governance. The second intifada saw Israel reoccupy large areas of the PA and decimate its infrastructure. Yielding to pressure, Arafat in April 2003 created the post of prime minister, which was filled by veteran PLO leader Mahmud Abbas. The PA's ability to function, however, remained hostage to rivalries and wider developments in the peace process.

see also abbas, mahmud; aqsa intifada, al-; arafat, yasir; barghuthi, marwan; dahlan, muhammad; gaza (city); hamas; islamic jihad; israel: overview; israeli settlements; jerusalem; oslo accord (1993); palestine liberation organization (plo); qurai, ahmad sulayman; rajub, jibril; west bank.


Ghanem, Asʿad. The Palestinian Regime: A "Partial Democracy." Brighton, U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 2001.

michael r. fischbach

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Palestinian Authority