Palestine is an Arab state with a democratically elected government. The process of institutional development began with signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993. This accord established the Palestinian National Authority as the executive representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The Oslo agreement defines the interim rules of administration and security during the period leading up to a final status agreement.
The status of Palestine during this period is defined in the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government (DOP), signed in Washington in September 1993. In the agreement, the Palestinian National Authority is defined geographically as the self-ruled territories, and administratively as the two main organizations, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the Council of Ministers.
With respect to sovereignty during the interim period, the Palestine Territories area is divided into three different areas according to the level of Palestinian Authority. Israel maintains external security in all three areas.
- Area "A" covers all Palestinian urban areas where the PNA has full autonomy. The PNA is responsible for administration and enforcement of the law on all levels. This includes civilian and police powers.
- Area "B" covers Palestinian rural areas where the PNA has civilian jurisdiction but no police powers. Israeli and Palestinian police patrol together
- Area "C" includes Israeli settlements, military areas and open areas. These areas are under complete Israeli control.
Palestinian government structure
The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is the representative legislative body, or parliament of Palestine. It is a unicameral legislative council comprised of the President, elected to a 4-year term by direct popular vote, and 132 members, directly elected on a multi-member constituency basis. The current President, Mr. Mahmoud ABBAS, became President of the Palestinian National Authority in January 2005.
The Council of Ministers reports to the PLC. Due to the geographical separation between Gaza strip and the West Bank (approximately 1.5 hours by car), each ministry maintains two offices.
Palestinian National Authority
President: Mr. Mahmoud ABBAS elected by the Palestinian people in the West Bank, Gaza strip, and East Jerusalem
Prime Minister: Position appointed by the President. Current Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad ISHTYEH
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC): One hundred and thirty two members elected by Palestinian population voting in the West Bank, Gaza strip and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian legal system is in the process of being modernized. For this process to be valid and all-encompassing, it will naturally take some time. Once the draft laws have been drawn up, each piece of legislation will call for ratification with the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and promulgation.
Currently, the legal environment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip represents a conglomeration of a variety of laws imposed upon the areas by historical governments. The current series of laws being established will add new layers, modernize, unify the existing laws, and establish new laws where necessary.
Considerable international assistance in the form of technical expertise and financial aid is being provided in order to both speed up the process, and ensure the new laws are just and effective in the long-term. The process of defining a new legal system for a nation in its infancy is even at the best of times, a rightly drawn out process.