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 PLO’s 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 PLO’s 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 PA’s 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 PA’s 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 (1929–2004), 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 PLC’s 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 PA’s 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 PA’s 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 PA’s 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.
Bush’s declaration ultimately resulted in the Road Map for Peace, which was released in April 2003. The Road Map was issued by the Quartet—the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations—and 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 Arafat’s 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. Abbas’s 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 Bush’s support for an independent Palestine and promise of direct aid in exchange for the PA’s 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 PA’s past ten-year performance. Hamas captured 74 of the 132 seats to Fatah’s 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 Israel’s 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): 194–212.
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): 116–130.
Gunes Murat Tezcur
"Palestinian Authority." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/palestinian-authority
"Palestinian Authority." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/palestinian-authority
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 B—most other Palestinian villages and inhabited sites—but 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
"Palestinian Authority." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestinian-authority
"Palestinian Authority." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestinian-authority
Palestinian Authority (PA) or Palestinian National Authority, interim self-government body responsible for areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Palestinian control. The terrritory is officially recognized as Palestine by many nations and international organizations; more than 110 nations have officially recognized Palestinian independence. The PA was authorized by the Oslo Accords (1993) and subsequent Palestinian agreements with Israel, and was established in 1994. As now constituted the PA includes a president, prime minister and cabinet, a legislative council, and security forces; Ramallah is the administrative center.
In 1994 Yasir Arafat, the leader of Al Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was a party to the Oslo Accords, appointed an interim 19-member Palestinian National Authority, under his direction, to administer Palestinian affairs in the areas of self-rule. Under a 1995 accord, self-rule was extended over a two-year period to all major Arab cities and villages in the West Bank, except East Jerusalem.
In 1996 the first Palestinian Legislative Council was elected, with 88 members chosen from the West Bank and Gaza, and Arafat was elected by popular vote as president of the PA. In the first legislative council, Al Fatah, the dominant group in the PLO, had a majority of the seats. Agreements with Israel in the late 1990s gradually increased the area of the West Bank under PA control.
Negotiations with Israel in 2000 proved unfruitful, and widespread violence erupted in the West Bank and Gaza in the fall after the Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited the Haram esh-Sherif (or Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Efforts to resume talks were subsequently largely unsuccessful, stymied by mutual distrust and a cycle of fighting and violence, including suicide bombings by Palestinians and Israeli attacks on PA facilities and reoccupation of Palestinian territory. The continuing growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which nearly doubled in population from 1992 to 2001, also proved a major irritant to Arabs and stumbling block to peace.
In Mar., 2003, the legislative council established the post of prime minister, effectively reducing Arafat's powers as president. The appointment to that post of Mahmoud Abbas—regarded as more moderate than Arafat—and the acceptance by Palestinians and Israelis of the internationally supported "road map for peace" led to a brief reduction in violence and new talks, but the cycle of attacks and reprisals soon resumed. Abbas resigned, and Ahmad Qurei was appointed to succeed him, but Qurei, like Abbas, clashed with Arafat over control of the security forces.
Following Arafat's death in 2004, Rawhi Fattouh became interim Palestinian president until Abbas, who had succeeded Arafat as PLO chairman, was elected president of the PA in 2005. Abbas and Sharon (now Israel's prime minister) subsequently agreed to a truce, and in Mar., 2005, Israeli forces began handing over control of Jericho and other West Bank towns to the Palestinian Authority. Subsequent violence, however, halted and reversed the process.
In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip, and a few settlements in the N West Bank were also evacuated. In the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, Hamas won a majority of the seats in a victory that in part was a rejection of the corruption and failures associated with Al Fatah. The formation of a Hamas government, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist led to tensions with President Abbas and the cutoff both of much Western aid and taxes and duties collected for the PA by Israel, creating a financial crisis. There was also jockeying for the control and allegiance of PA security forces between the president and Hamas political leaders.
The politically unsettled situation continued into early 2007, when Hamas and Al Fatah agreed to form a national unity government; the tensions between the two groups at times erupted into violence. When Hamas guerrillas captured an Israel soldier in June, 2006, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and arrested several dozen PA leaders, mainly Hamas politicians, in the West Bank. The 2007 power-sharing agreement did not restore U.S. and EU direct aid to the PA, as Hamas continued to refuse to recognize Israel.
Subsequent clashes in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Al Fatah led in June to Hamas's seizing control of the territory. Abbas accused Hamas of an attempted coup, dismissed the government, and appointed a government that did not include Hamas. The United States, Israel, and others subsequently released aid and other funds to the new government. The PA was effectively divided into two territories and two governments as a result of the event, with Hamas in control in Gaza and Al Fatah in the West Bank. In 2009 the PLO voted to extend Abbas's PA presidency indefinitely when it and Hamas could not agree on an election date; Hamas rejected the move to little effect. Attempts to reestablish a unified government were unsuccessful until May, 2014, when a technocratic unity government was formed in advance of new elections planned for 2015 under a pact signed the previous April. Tensions between the PLO and Hamas, however, continued.
In 2011 the PA unsuccessfully sought recognition from, and full membership in, the United Nations as part of its wider drive for international recognition in the face of stalled peace negotiations with Israel, but in 2012 it received de facto recognition as independent Palestine from the UN General Assembly. It also was admitted to membership in the International Criminal Court in 2015. Peace negotiations, meanwhile, have not progressed.
"Palestinian Authority." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestinian-authority
"Palestinian Authority." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/palestinian-authority