The Palestinian government
(CNN) -- The Palestinian Authority is the limited self-rule government for the West Bank and Gaza. It was established in 1994 to begin the process of autonomy for the Palestinian territories under the terms of the Oslo accords.
On January 20, 1996, Palestinians held their first elections. Yasser Arafat was elected president of the PA (the Palestinians refer to it as the Palestinian National Authority), and 88 others were elected to sit on a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
Arafat established a Cabinet for the PA that was approved by the legislative council.
Two Cabinet members who, along with Arafat, have played highly visible roles in negotiations with Israel include Local Government Minister Saeb Erakat, who is the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Planning and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath.
Long before the PA was established, Palestinian leadership was organized through the Palestine National Council (PNC). Its founding 422 members met in 1964 and adopted the Palestinian National Charter, also known as the Palestinian National Covenant. The PNC serves as a parliament in exile of the Palestinian people.
The PNC established the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. Arafat became PLO chairman in 1969. The PLO has functioned both as an umbrella group for various factions of armed resistance to Israel and as a peace negotiator.
In 1993, the PLO affirmed that the articles of the Palestinian National Covenant denying Israel's right to exist were invalid and renounced terrorism. In turn, Israel acknowledged the PLO as the official negotiating body for the Palestinians.
Some key Palestinian political figures
Yasser Arafat -- He has held the position of chairman of the PLO since 1969 and was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996. Born in 1929, Arafat became involved in the cause of Palestinian nationalism as a teen-ager. He has led guerrillas in battle and served as the face of political negotiations for the Palestinians. In 1993, he signed the Oslo accords with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. All three were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
Abu Mazen (or Mahmoud Abbas) -- Mazen is chief lieutenant to Arafat. He worked heavily behind the scenes on the Oslo accords and is former PLO ambassador to Moscow.
Abu Ala'a (or Ahmed Qurei) -- Ala'a is speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Under the unofficial Palestinian constitution, he would take over for 60 days if Arafat dies or is incapacitated. He served as a PLO negotiator at Oslo in 1993.
Muhammad Dahlan (or Mohammed Dahlan) -- Dahlan is head of Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip and a veteran of talks with his Israeli security counterparts. He spent time in Israeli prisons before being deported and going to Tunis to join the Palestinian Intifada, the uprising against Israeli military forces in occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank between 1987 and 1993.
Jibril Rajoub -- Rajoub is head of Palestinian security in the West Bank. He spent 17 years in Israeli prisons and is fluent in Hebrew.
Marwan Barghouti -- Barghouti is leader of the Fatah in the West Bank. He is considered a charismatic, popular and dynamic speaker. He emerged as an influential leader during the Palestinian Intifada from 1987 to 1993.
Saeb Erakat -- Erakat is local government minister for the Palestinian Authority and the top negotiator for the Palestinians. He is a political scientist who has taught at An Najah University in the West Bank.
Nabil Shaath -- Shaath is minister of planning and international cooperation for the Palestinian Authority. He is known as a moderate and has played an important role in PLO relations with the United States and in key peace negotiations with the Israelis.
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