The Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian Authority (P.A.) came into existence in 1994 as a result of the 1993 Oslo Accords. In an effort to moderate the Palestinian voice, the P.A. was created to take over negotiations and administration of Palestinian territories in the West Bank until a final agreement could be reached.
Yasser Arafat was the first president of the P.A., winning by a landslide in 1996 elections. However, his administration was rife with internal corruption and continued acts of terrorism. At Israel’s behest, Yasser Arafat was removed from his post as president. Mahmoud Abbas, viewed as a more moderate leader, was appointed president in 2003, and went on to win the 2005 elections.
While the P.A. was created to form a more moderate Palestinian administration, since its creation, Israel has accused the P.A. of at best, turning a blind eye to the terrorist activities of its members, and at worst, financing, aiding, and assisting them. During the Second Intifada, Israel was able to prove that the P.A. was behind some of the worst atrocities, and the IDF sought to disable their infrastructure.
The P.A. scored an important victory in 2005, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the disengagement from all settlements in the Gaza Strip, and a few from the northern West Bank, in the hopes of achieving a more stable peace with the Palestinians. The P.A. gained full control over all areas in the Gaza Strip. However, in 2006, a surprise victory by Hamas in the parliamentary elections threw the P.A. into turmoil. The United States and European Union halted their financial aid to the region, soon redirecting the funds directly to Abbas.
But the fighting between the Fatah-led P.A. and Hamas intensified, leading to a split within the administration. Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip, while the P.A. retained its control in the West Bank. Hamas’ leadership, as many Israelis predicted, led to further attacks on Israeli citizens, including devastating rocket attacks, which in turn resulted in Israel’s 2008 military campaign. Operation Cast Lead lasted three weeks and targeted the terrorist headquarters and weapons’ stores in Gaza.
Today, talks continue between the P.A. and the Israeli government, under the stewardship of the United States. However, disputes, such as the timetable for the envisioned Israeli-Palestinian agreement, Israel’s construction on the West Bank, and the Palestinians’ lack of recognition of Israel, continue to stymie progress.
Most recently, this process has been slowed even more by the new unity agreement between the P.A. and an unreformed Hamas. Already this collective Palestinian body has come under fire by the U.S. and other western nations who insist the Palestinian leadership agree to principles established by the Quartet: recognizing Israel and renouncing terrorism.