Talk:President of the Palestinian National Authority

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President or Chairman?[edit]

In light of the debate between the translation of ra'ees as either President or Chairman, it might be informative to say what the Arabic title is of the heads of state of Arab republics internationally recognized as states. For instance, is Hosni Mubarak, always called "Presidnet" in the English language press, referred to as ra'ees in Arabic?

--Jfruh 14:21, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)

That's an entirely artificial dispute. Google News shows it's "President of the Palestinian Authority" 94% of the time, "Chairman of the Palestinian Authority" 6%, and no one at all uses Ra'ees or Ra'is in English. I'm moving this to the common title. Gzornenplatz 17:52, Jan 17, 2005 (UTC)

So the Government of the State of Israel, the PLO, the United States of America, The Russian Federation, The Arab Republic of Egypt, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, The Kingdom of Norway, and The European Union, whose official representatives all signed this document, which is is English, and uses the term "Ra'ees" fourteen times (but doesn't mention "president" even once) - those are all, collectively, no one at all?
"Ra'ees" is the only official title (in English). Informal translations, not matter how widely used, should be mentioned in the article, but should certainly not be used in the title.
And, BTW, since when do NPOV issues on Wikipedia decided by a Google count? I must have missed that policy. -- uriber 20:49, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
That's not an NPOV issue. The simple "use common names" policy applies here. The document you cite, because it had to be signed by both Israel and the PLO, who couldn't agree on whether to translate the title "chairman" or "president", left it untranslated. But that is not our problem. The only official title is the one in the original Arabic, that's Ra'ees, but this is an English encyclopaedia, so we translate it; both "chairman" and "president" would be valid translations, but in accordance with policy we should follow the most common usage, which is "president". Gzornenplatz 21:34, Jan 17, 2005 (UTC)
It's not true that "Israel and the PLO couldn't agree on [how] to translate the title". The document was not translated from Arabic - it was originally written in English. The disagreement was not about "how to translate" the title, but about what the title would be (in English, which is the language of the binding version of the agreement). The decision was that the title (in the binding English version) would be "Ra'ees". Translations of this (to Arabic and Hebrew) were presumably left to the parties.
Since, as you pointed out, there was (and still is) a disagreement about using either "president" or "chairman" - using one of these terms is necessarily POV (which makes this an NOPV issue). Luckily for us, unlike in other cases, we are not forced to choose one of these, because the negotiators back in 1995 solved the problem for us by coming up with a neutral term. All we need to do is use it. -- uriber 21:54, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I didn't say the document was translated, just the title, which wasn't created by the document. Arafat was president since 1994, the document is from 1995. There is no "official English title". The title is official and undisputed in Arabic, so the dispute just affects how to translate it, not what the title "is". Gzornenplatz 22:14, Jan 17, 2005 (UTC)
Can you bring some evidence (either from official documents or from mainstream media) to your claim that "Arafat was president since 1994"? If so, I will accept your point that the dispute only affects translation. Even if that is the case - I don't see why Wikipedia should take sides in this dispute (which you acknowledge the existance of). The fact that the majority (of cuontries, people, or Google hits) supports one of the parties to a dispute over the other does not make that party's views (or traslations) neutral. -- uriber 22:36, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
here is a letter, signed by Mr. Arafat on May 4, 1994, which reads:
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.'
This pretty much disproves your theory that "Arafat was president since 1994". In fact, the word "ra'ees" is presented here as a translation of the English word "chairman". -- uriber 23:12, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
It doesn't disprove anything. He entered Palestine in July 1994, and then became Ra'ees (in Arabic) of the Palestinian Authority. No one said he used the title "President of Palestine". The part after the "of" seems to be the crucial distinction here. It's not even clear if the letter was written by Arafat in English, probably he wrote it in Arabic (using the term Ra'ees) and it's just an Israeli translation which is there on the Israeli Foreign Ministry website. Gzornenplatz 23:46, Jan 17, 2005 (UTC)
Wrong, again. Here is the same letter (in English) from the website of the "Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations." So it's not an Israli translation of a letter in Arabic. And based on what are you saying that the part after the "of" is the crucial part? I say both parts are equally crucial. And I'm still waiting for some positive evidence to your claim that "Arafat was president since 1994". -- uriber 09:00, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Well, if he wrote it that way - "chairman (Ra'ees in Arabic)" - it proves that he considered Ra'ees only the Arabic title, not the English one, and if you want to interpret the fact that he translated it "chairman" in the letter as a promise that he would always translate it that way in English (which is dubious, since he contrasted it with "President of Palestine", and the part after the "of" seems more relevant as it is not dependent on language, while the part before is only relevant in English), well, then he broke that promise. The same Palestinian UN mission site uses "president" here. Now as for the fact that he was Ra'ees since 1994, I'm surprised you need evidence for that. His letter said he would use the title when he entered the area; he did so on July 1, 1994, and the Palestinian Authority was sworn in on July 5 [1]. Gzornenplatz 10:33, Jan 18, 2005 (UTC)
Yes, in 1994, "ra'ees" was only the Arabic title - the English title was "chairman". That was changed in 1995 (the first document I linked to), when the official English title became "ra'ees". That's why I wrote in the article that the term "ra'ees" was formally introduced (as an actual title, not just as a translation of "chairman" into Arabic), in 1995. Unfortunately, you changed that.
Of course the Palestinian UN mission uses "President". I never claimed that nobody uses it. In fact, In the article, I specifically wrote that the Palestinians (and others) use "President". I was referring to the Palestinian UN mission's site only to prove the autheticity of the letter I cited earlier.
I never asked for a reference that Arafat was Ra'ees in 1994. I asked for a reference that he was President in 1994 (which is what you claimed).
Back to your original claim that no one at all uses Ra'ees or Ra'is. How would you explain this (a very recent document, BTW)? Is the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs "no one at all"? Or are these announcements not in English? Or is "ra'ees" a word in Japanese? I would say that the more likely explanation is that Japan, trying to preserve it's neutrality in this matter, simply uses the neutral term. Wikipedia should do the same.
The bottom line here is this: There are three terms in use: "ra'ees", "president", and "chairman". The choice of one term over another is certainly a matter of POV (which is why Israel consistently uses "chairman", whereas the Palestinians consistently use "president"). The question is, should Wikipedia use the the most neutral term ("ra'ees"), which is also the term used officially in bilateral documents, or the most common term ("president"). I think that Wikipedia's NPOV policy dictates that we use the first. -- uriber 18:04, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I dispute your whole premise that there is something like an "official English name" here. I don't see anything in the 1995 document saying "the official English title shall be Ra'ees" or anything like that. The office was not established by that document, and where it is mentioned it is called Ra'ees because the two sides could not otherwise agree on a translation. The Japanese ministry, likewise, might have wanted to avoid offending either side. But we're not diplomats here, avoiding offense is not anything we have to care for. There are many encyclopedic facts which may be unpleasant to some. But the only question for us is, is it a fact? The only official title here is the one in the language of the territory concerned (i.e. Arabic), and that's Ra'ees (and has been since 1994). Now, that word can be translated "chairman" or "president" in the present context; both is equally correct. But, according to the common use rule, we should use "president". Your comment "I never asked for a reference that Arafat was Ra'ees in 1994. I asked for a reference that he was President in 1994" makes no sense - there is no difference, Ra'ees means president. Gzornenplatz 18:34, Jan 18, 2005 (UTC)
The Palestinian National Authority is not a territory. It is a political entity which was established as part of the Oslo Accords - it did not exist before these accords were signed, and wouldn't have existed had they not been signed. The following passage from the preamble to the 1995 agreement suggests that among the its puprposes is indeed the establishment of the PA and position of "Ra'ees":
RECOGNIZING that the aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, i.e. the elected Council (hereinafter "the Council" or "the Palestinian Council"), and the elected Ra'ees of the Executive Authority, for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [...]
The question whether the post is called "President", "Chairman", or "Ra'ees" is not a factual question - in practice, it doesn't matter. It's a purely formal distinction, and a matter of POV.
Since we seem to be heading towards a deadlock here (your argument that "Ra'ees means president" brings us back to square one), I'll post this on Wikipedia:Request for comments, and we'll see what other people have to say. -- uriber 19:42, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Who said the PNA is a territory? It has certain authority over certain territory. So the local language of that territory naturally provides the primary titles of the PNA officeholders. The title Ra'ees was obviously not created by the 1995 document, since it was created in 1994. The translation may be POV, but using Ra'ees in English is not NPOV, actually it's the furthest from it. Because it's not just the Israeli and Palestinian opinions that matter here, but the practice of the English-speaking world at large. And there, "president" is sufficiently dominant for us to use it. Gzornenplatz 20:09, Jan 18, 2005 (UTC)

I believe President is the correct term to use. Common usage must take precedence in situations like these. Palestine-info 11:59, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Google search give similar numbers of hits for both "Chairman" and "President", at least as regards Arafat. Ra'ees seems to be the most accurate term, however, and it is commonly used in official English documents. Jayjg | (Talk) 20:45, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)
What search terms do you use? I get 9,260 for "chairman of the palestinian authority" and 45,200 for "president of the palestinian authority" (and 29 for "ra'ees of the palestinian authority"). Searching Google News is even more decisive. Gzornenplatz 20:59, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)
I looked for "Chairman Arafat" and "President Arafat". Jayjg | (Talk) 21:09, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)
That's meaningless, since most references to "Chairman Arafat" will refer to his chairmanship of the PLO, not the PA. Gzornenplatz 21:13, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)
Most of the ones I saw, at a cursory glance, seemed to date from the time he was Ra'is of the PA. Jayjg | (Talk) 14:51, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The statement "Israeli press simply refers to the leader by name alone." in the section The term is incomplete.[edit]

The statement "Israeli press simply refers to the leader by name alone." in the section The term is incomplete. Although the Palestinian president is referred to by name alone, he is also variously referred to as chairman, president and even ra'ees by mainstream Israeli media.

If you can't read Hebrew, but would still like to verify this claim with your own eyes, please consider the following two step procedure:
1. Verify the following five claims. You could verify the first two points for example by copying the Hebrew word to an online Hebrew-English dictionary, such as milon. You could verify the other three points by comparing the Hebrew text to the tables on Hebrew alphabet.

  • The Hebrew word נשיא means president.
  • The Hebrew word יו"ר means chairman.
  • The word ra'ees is spelled in Hebrew so: ראיס.
  • Yasser Arafat, the first president, is spelled in Hebrew so: יאסר ערפאת.
  • Abu Mazen, the second and current president, is spelled in Hebrew so: אבו מאזן, possibly with a hyphen between the two names.
  • Mahmud Abas, another name of Abu Mazen (see the Abu Mazen article for support), is spelled in Hebrew so: מחמוד עבאס.

2. Browse to any of the links below, and check that the Hebrew terms for president and chairman are used in proximity to the proper names of the presidents, e.g.:
יו"ר הרשות הפלסטינית, יאסר ערפאת
(translation: Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat)

Yediot Aharonot (

  • '04: President (Comment: mentions that only Israel and the US refer to him as Chairman)
  • '05: Chairman (Comment: mentions that except for Israel and the US, he is referred to as President)
  • '06: President
  • '07: President

Maariv (

  • '04: Chairman
  • '05: Chairman, Ra'ees
  • '06: Chairman
  • '07: Chairman, Ra'ees

Ha'aretz (

Itayb 10:04, 20 February 2007 (UTC)