President of the Palestinian National Authority

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The President of the Palestinian National Authority (Arabic: رئيس السلطة الوطنية الفلسطينية‎) was the highest-ranking political position (equivalent to head of state) in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The President appoints the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority from the Palestinian Legislative Council, with whom he shares power.

In January 2013, the post of the President of the Palestinian Authority was merged into the post of the President of the State of Palestine, following the official decree of transition from Palestinian Authority to State of Palestine by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The title[edit]

Palestine COA (alternative).svg
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The Arabic term Ra'ees or Ra'is (رئيس) can be translated to English as either "President" or "Chairman". As the status of Palestine as a political entity is controversial, the use of the term President to describe the leader of the Palestinian government is controversial to some, as its use may be seen to imply a recognition of state sovereignty. The use of the term "Chairman" is controversial for the opposite reason—its use may be seen to imply denial of Palestinian aspirations for statehood. [2]

The Arabic term was used in the English text of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,[1] part of the Oslo accords which established the PNA. In practice, when referring to the ra'ees in English documents and statements, the PNA uses the term "president", whereas Israel uses "chairman".

The United States, in its role as peace broker, uses several different terms according to context. News releases from its embassy in Israel refer to the PNA "chairman"; press briefings in Washington use "president"; both occasionally avoid the issue with "Palestinian leader". The international English-language press mostly (but not always) follows the Palestinian terminology. Israeli press refers to the leader variously as "ra'ees", "president", "chairman" or by name alone.

A letter delivered from Yasser Arafat to the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, as part of the Gaza-Jericho agreement stated that "When Chairman Arafat enters the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area, he will use the title 'Chairman (Ra'ees in Arabic) of the Palestinian Authority' or 'Chairman of the PLO', and will not use the title 'President of Palestine.'"[2] There are some documents signed by Arafat as 'Chairman'.[3] The same term was used by Bill Clinton during 2000 Camp David Summit.[4]

Election and term of office[edit]

The President is elected directly by the Palestinian people for a four-year presidential term.[citation needed]

Powers and responsibilities[edit]

  • Commander-in-Chief of the Palestinian Forces
  • Sends and receives all foreign ambassadors
  • May veto bills within 30 days of passage with 2/3 majority needed to over turn veto
  • May grant pardons or commute sentences but not general amnesty
  • If Legislative Council is not in session, in exceptional cases, can issues decrees with force of law, but decrees must be presented to Legislative Council as soon as convened for approval or cease to have force of law
  • Appoints the Prime Minister and may remove him
  • Orders the Prime Minister to call together the Council of Ministers
  • No right to dissolve the Legislative council and call for early elections.

Oath of office[edit]

Before assuming the office, the President takes the following oath before the Legislative Council, and in the presence of the Speaker of the Palestinian National Council, the Chief of the Supreme Court:

I swear to God almighty to be faithful to the Homeland and to its sacred places, and to the people and its national heritage, and to respect the Constitutional system and the law, and to safeguard the interests of the Palestinian people completely, as God is my witness.


The office of the President is considered vacant in any of the following cases:

  • Death
  • Resignation submitted to the Palestinian Legislative Council if accepted by two thirds of its Members
  • Considered legally incompetent, as per a ruling issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court, and subsequently approved by two thirds of the Palestinian Legislative Council

If the office of the President of the National Authority becomes vacant due to any of the above cases, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council assumes the powers and duties of the Presidency of the National Authority, temporarily for a period not exceeding sixty days, during which free and direct elections to choose a new president are required to take place in accordance with the Palestinian election laws.

List of Presidents (1994–2013)[edit]

# Portrait Name
Term of Office Party
1 ArafatEconomicForum.jpg Yasser Arafat
5 July 1994 11 November 2004[5] Fatah
(Palestine Liberation Organization)
Palestinian National Authority COA.svg Rawhi Fattouh
(b. 1949)[6]
11 November 2004 15 January 2005 Fatah
(Palestine Liberation Organization)
2 Mahmoud Abbas.jpg Mahmoud Abbas
(b. 1935)[7]
15 January 2005 3 January 2013
(disputed after 9 January 2009)
(Palestine Liberation Organization)
Palestinian National Authority COA.svg Aziz Duwaik
(b. 1948)[8]
15 January 2009 3 January 2013
(disputed after 9 January 2009)


Yasser Arafat was the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and became the Palestinian National Authority's first president when the governing body was created in 1994. His rule was validated by an election on 20 January 1996, but future elections were suspended. Arafat remained president until his death on 11 November 2004, at which point Palestinian house speaker Rauhi Fattouh assumed most of Arafat's duties and became interim president. However, he never formally assumed the title. New elections were held on 9 January 2005, and won by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas's term expired on 9 January 2009, creating a constitutional crisis. Abbas unilaterally extended his term by one year and is recognised as President by the government of Salam Fayad, which governed parts of the West Bank. After this Aziz Duwaik, as the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was recognized as acting President by the government of Ismail Haniyeh that governed the Gaza Strip. In 2014 Salam Fayad was recognized by both sides as head of government and Mahmoud Abbas as president.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]