The Council on Foreign Relations, in a Dec. 2005 article on its website titled "Terrorism Havens: Palestinian Authority," contained the following statement:
[Palestinian Authority] is an autonomous government that was
established by a series of early 1990s Israeli-Palestinian peace pacts
to rule over most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and probably
become the basis for a full-blown Palestinian state later in the peace
process. The PA lacks many powers associated with a state—such as
complete control of its territory—but is responsible for providing such
varied government services as education, criminal justice, health care,
and trash collection for some three million Palestinians. It rules
virtually all of poverty-stricken Gaza and shares or has total control
of about 40 percent of the West Bank; the rest of the West Bank,
including more than one hundred Israeli settlements, is under Israeli
control. In the past, the PA has been criticized by human rights groups
for authoritarian practices."
The Palestinian Authority (PA), on its website (accessed Mar. 3, 2004), provided the following self-description:
"The PNA is an Autonomous Palestinian government set up in order to implement the Israeli-Palestinian agreements (Oslo Agreements) for a transitional period which is supposed to last until May 1999. Initially organized within the framework of the Gaza-Jericho Autonomy Agreement (Cairo Agreement or Oslo I), it was then not an elected government and was exclusively composed of members of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization].
Today, the Palestinian National Authority has a mixed nature as planned in the Interim Agreement on the West bank and the Gaza Strip (Taba Agreement or Oslo II). It comprises a majority of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elected on 20 January 1996 and a minority of external appointed officials chosen mainly among the members of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). This allows within the PNA an optimal representation of the Palestinians from 'within' and from those of the Diaspora [Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Sryia].
The President of the PNA is Yasser Arafat who was elected in general elections with 87.1% of the votes.
On March 2003 the Palestinian Legislative Council approved the creation of the post of prime minister. This had been demanded by the U.S. as a condition to unveil the internationally backed road map for peace in the Middle East. President Yasser Arafat had initially resisted international pressure to name a prime minister and share powers. The Palestinian Legislative Council finally approved the deputy PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas [resigned 09/06/03] and his cabinet by a vote of 51 to 18 with three abstentions on the 29 April 2003. [Mahmoud Abbas was replaced by Ahmed Qureia]."