Palestinian National 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 D.C. The Declaration was preceded by the exchange of letters of mutual recognition between the Government of Israel and the PLO on 9 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, President Yasser 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, President Arafat arrived in Jericho aboard an Egyptian helicopter for a spectacular reunion with a huge crowed of Palestinians from all over the West Bank. Later on that same day President Arafat took the oath of office and swore in 12 members of the Palestinian Authority, thus officially announcing the first cabinet. President Arafat returned from Tunisia to Gaza, on 12 July 1994, to permanently settle in the Palestinian territory.

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). President Arafat was opposed for the presidency by a well-known Palestinian woman, a national figure and head of an NGO, Mrs. Samiha Khalil, and a total of 692 candidates contested the 88 seats of the PLC.

On 7 March 1996, all 88 members of the Council took part in the first meeting of the Council held in Gaza City. Ahmad Qurei was elected speaker of the Council. The Council elected two Deputy speakers, Nahed Al-Rayiss and Mitri Abu Aitta, and a Secretary General, Rawhi Fattouh. In a later meeting, Ibrahim Abu Al-Naja was elected Deputy Speaker replacing Mr. Al-Rayiss.

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.

The Palestinian general elections represented the first step in the process of the establishment of the Palestinian State. The legislative branch and the President of the executive authority, which were elected in a general democratic elections that were monitored by international observers, in addition to the cabinet and the judicial system are the solid foundation of the Palestinian State to come. Other organs and institutions of the Palestinian Authority were also established to carry out other necessary tasks.