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State of Palestine

In this article we will delve into the exciting world of State of Palestine, exploring its multiple facets and meanings. State of Palestine is a topic that has sparked interest and debate throughout history, becoming a meeting point for various perspectives and disciplines. From its origins to its influence today, State of Palestine has left an indelible mark on society and culture. Throughout these pages, we will immerse ourselves in a journey of discovery and reflection about State of Palestine, analyzing its impact in different contexts and its relevance in people's lives. Get ready to embark on a fascinating journey through State of Palestine, where we will discover its importance and meaning in the contemporary world.

State of Palestine
دولة فلسطين (Arabic)
Dawlat Filasṭīn
Anthem: "فدائي"
"Fida'i"
"Fedayeen Warrior"
Territory claimed by Palestine (green). Claimed territory annexed by Israel (light green).
Territory claimed by Palestine (green).
Claimed territory annexed by Israel (light green).
StatusUN observer state under Israeli occupation
Recognized by 143 UN member states
  • Proclaimed capital
  • Administrative
    center
Largest cityRafah
Official languagesArabic
Demonym(s)Palestinian
GovernmentUnitary semi-presidential republic
• President
Mahmoud Abbas
Mohammad Mustafa
Aziz Dweik
LegislatureNational Council
Formation
15 November 1988
29 November 2012
• Sovereignty dispute with Israel
Ongoing
Area
• Total
6,020 km2 (2,320 sq mi) (163rd)
• Water (%)
3.5
5,655 km2
365 km2
Population
• 2023 estimate
5,483,450 (121st)
• Density
731/km2 (1,893.3/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $36.391 billion (138th)
• Per capita
Increase $6,642 (140th)
GDP (nominal)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $18.109 billion (121st)
• Per capita
Increase $3,464 (131st)
Gini (2016)Positive decrease 33.7
medium
HDI (2021)Increase 0.715
high (106th)
Currency
Time zoneUTC+2 (Palestine Standard Time)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+3 (Palestine Summer Time)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+970
ISO 3166 codePS
Internet TLD.ps

Palestine (Arabic: فلسطين, romanizedFilasṭīn), officially the State of Palestine (دولة فلسطين, Dawlat Filasṭīn), is a country in the southern Levant region of West Asia. It encompasses two disconnected territories — the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, collectively known as the Palestinian territories — within the larger region of Palestine. The country shares its borders with Israel to north, west and south, Jordan to the east and Egypt to the southwest. It has a combined land area of 6,020 square kilometres (2,320 sq mi) while its population exceeds five million people. Its proclaimed capital is Jerusalem while Ramallah serves as its administrative center and Rafah is currently its largest city. Arabic is the official language. The majority of Palestinians practice Islam while Christianity also has a significant presence.

The region of Palestine has played an important part in world history. The Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines all left their mark on the land. In addition to its historical significance, Palestine holds profound religious importance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Throughout history the region has experienced periods of coexistence and conflict between different religious and ethnic groups. Notably, during the Middle Ages, when Jewish communities faced persecution, they found refuge and protection under Muslim rule and the wider Islamic world. The Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine from the 16th century until its collapse at the end of World War I, provided a sanctuary for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe. The end of the Ottoman rule marked a new chapter in Palestine's history. Following World War I, the British Empire assumed control of the region under the League of Nations mandate. The British Mandate for Palestine, established in 1920, brought significant changes to the political and social landscape of the area, setting the stage for the conflicts and struggles that would follow.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was accompanied by a war which led to the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and created a large refugee population. Subsequent Arab–Israeli wars, including the Six-Day War in 1967, resulted in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On 15th November 1988, Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat, declared the establishment of the State. Signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, negotiated between Israel and the PLO, created the Palestinian Authority (PA) to exercise partial control over parts of Palestinian territories. In 2007, internal divisions between Palestinian political factions led to a takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas. Since then, the West Bank has been governed in part by the Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah, while the Gaza Strip has remained under the control of Hamas. Israel has built settlements in both of the Palestinian territories since the start of the occupation. The settlements in the Gaza Strip were dismantled in Israel's unilateral disengagement in 2005, and approximately 670,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements in the West Bank. The international community considers Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this.

Currently, the biggest challenges to the country include the Israeli occupation, partial blockade, restrictions on movement, expansion of Israeli settlements and settler violence, as well as an overall poor security situation. Unsolved remain the question of Palestine's borders, the legal and diplomatic status of Jerusalem, and the return of Palestinian refugees. Despite these challenges, the country remains one of the most highly-educated countries in the Arab world, maintains an emerging economy, and sees frequent tourism. As of May 2024, Palestine is recognized as a sovereign state by 143 out of 193 member states of the United Nations. It is also a member of several international organizations, including the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It has been a non-member observer state of the United Nations since 2012.

Etymology

Although the concept of the Palestine region and its geographical extent has varied throughout history, it is now considered to be composed by the modern State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. General use of the term "Palestine" or related terms to the area at the southeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea beside Syria has historically been taking place since the times of ancient Greece, with Herodotus being the first historian writing in the 5th century BC in The Histories of a "district of Syria, called Palaistine" in which Phoenicians interacted with other maritime peoples. The term "Palestine" (in Latin, Palæstina) is thought to have been a term coined by the Ancient Greeks for the area of land occupied by the Philistines, although there are other explanations.

Terminology

This article uses the terms "Palestine", "State of Palestine", "occupied Palestinian territory (oPt or OPT)" interchangeably depending on context. Specifically, the term "occupied Palestinian territory" refers as a whole to the geographical area of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. In all cases, any references to land or territory refer to land claimed by the State of Palestine.

History

Early history

Jericho is regarded as one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world
Women at the Western Wall

Judaism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, traces its origins back to historic Palestine during biblical times. It began with the biblical patriarch Abraham, who lived around 2000 BCE. According to Jewish tradition, God made a covenant with Abraham, promising him descendants and land. The Israelites, Abraham's descendants, settled in Canaan, which later became known as Palestine. They faced challenges such as enslavement, oppression, and exile. The Exodus from Egypt, led by Moses, is a pivotal event in Jewish history, symbolizing deliverance from slavery and the return to their ancestral homeland. During the 10th century BCE, under King David and King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom reached its peak. Jerusalem became the political and religious center, and the First Temple was constructed as a sacred site for Jewish worship.

However, internal conflicts and foreign invasions led to the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah, and the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. This event marked the Babylonian exile and dispersion of the Jewish people. During the Babylonian exile, Jewish religious practices and beliefs were reinforced and codified. Despite foreign domination, the exiled Jews maintained their faith and cultural identity. After the fall of the Babylonian empire, some Jews returned to Palestine and rebuilt the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Palestine came under the rule of various empires, but Jewish religious and cultural identity persisted. Different Jewish sects emerged, contributing to the diversity within Judaism and the development of religious interpretation and practice.

Christianity, one of the world's major religions, originated in ancient Palestine during the first century CE. It is closely tied to the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who is considered its central figure. According to Christian tradition, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and spent much of his life in the region. The crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem is a crucial event in Christian history, believed by Christians to bring salvation and forgiveness of sins. His disciples, known as apostles, spread his teachings and established Christianity. The early growth of Christianity faced persecution but gained momentum after the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century CE. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, leading to its widespread acceptance and the construction of churches and religious institutions.

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam

Historic Palestine holds a significant place in the history of Islam, with several key events and developments taking place in the region. One of the pivotal events in Islam is the Isra and Miraj, which refers to the night journey and ascension of Muhammad. According to Islamic tradition, during the Isra, Muhammad was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night, where he led a congregational prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This event solidified Jerusalem's importance as a holy city in Islam. The Miraj, the subsequent ascension of Muhammad to the heavens, is believed to have taken place from the Al-Aqsa Mosque. During this spiritual journey, Muhammad is said to have encountered various prophets and received instructions for the Muslim community, including the command to establish the five daily prayers (Salah). The Qibla, the direction Muslims face during prayer, initially faced towards Jerusalem. However, in the early years of Islam, the Qibla was changed to face Mecca. This change occurred after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina and solidified the religious and symbolic significance of Mecca as the holiest city in Islam.

Roman Empire

In 63 BCE, Roman General Pompey captured Jerusalem, marking the beginning of Roman rule in the region. Judea became a client kingdom under Roman control, with local rulers appointed by the Romans. The Herodian dynasty, established by Herod the Great, ruled over Judea as Roman client kings. Herod initiated ambitious building projects, including the expansion and renovation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Roman rule faced resistance from Jewish factions. The First Jewish-Roman War erupted in 66 CE, resulting in the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE by Roman forces under Titus. Another major revolt, known as the Bar Kokhba Revolt, took place in 132-136 CE but was ultimately crushed by the Romans.

After the Jewish revolts, the Romans abolished the client kingdom and transformed Judea into a Roman province called Judea. The Roman administration imposed direct rule, leading to the dispersal of Jewish communities and the exile of many Jews. The destruction of the Second Temple and the Roman occupation contributed to the Jewish diaspora, the scattering of Jewish communities throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Jewish populations settled in various regions, including Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Palestine, particularly Jerusalem, became a significant center for early Christianity. Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection took place in Jerusalem, and it became a focal point for Christian pilgrimage and worship. Christian communities grew, and numerous churches were established in the region. In the 4th century, the Roman Empire transitioned into the Byzantine Empire. Palestine remained under Byzantine control, and Christianity continued to flourish, with the construction of important religious sites and the development of Christian theology and institutions.

Middle Age

The significance of Jerusalem in Islam created a zeal among Muslims to conquer the Holy Land. It occurred during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab in the mid-7th century CE. The Muslim conquest of Palestine was led by the Rashidun Caliphate in 7th century. The Byzantine Empire loses control over the region, and Muslim rule was established. Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim forces in 638, and the city became an important center for Islamic worship and administration. After conquest of Jerusalem, Omar visited the city and reportedly made a pact with the Christian inhabitants, guaranteeing their safety and allowing them to continue practicing their religion. Umar also invited Jews, who had been expelled from Jerusalem centuries earlier, to return and settle in the city.

Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine. According to historical records, Jews in Palestine were generally allowed to practice their religion freely under Umar's rule. They were permitted to maintain their synagogues and religious institutions, practice their rituals, and administer their internal affairs. By 8th century, the Abbasid Caliphate, based in Baghdad, replaced the Umayyad Caliphate. The Abbasids ruled over Palestine and much of the Muslim world, bringing cultural and administrative changes. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, situated in the Haram al-Sharif compound, remained Islamic landmarks and centers of spiritual and religious activities.

The First Crusade was launched in 1096 with the goal of recapturing the Holy Land from Muslim rule. In 1099, the First Crusade reached Jerusalem, resulting in the establishment of the Crusader states in the region, including the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders controlled Palestine until the late 12th century. Jerusalem witnessed a violent massacre, with much of the Muslim and Jewish population being killed. Following the capture of Jerusalem, the Crusaders established several Crusader states in the region, including the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Tripoli, and the Principality of Antioch. These states were ruled by European nobles and were characterized by a blend of European and Middle Eastern cultures.

Saladin — founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and is known as the "conqueror of Jerusalem"

Saladin led a successful campaign against the Crusader states. Jerusalem was recaptured by Muslim forces, marking the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. During the Battle of Hattin in 1187, where Saladin's forces decisively defeated the Crusader army led by King Guy of Jerusalem. Following the battle, Saladin showed clemency towards the captured Crusader soldiers, including King Guy himself. Instead of seeking revenge or executing them, he chose to demonstrate mercy and generosity. He provided medical care to the wounded Crusader soldiers, ensured their safe passage to Christian-held cities, and even personally sent gifts to King Guy's wife, Queen Sibylla. In 1187, after the fell of Palestine to Saladin's forces, he granted amnesty and protection to its Christian inhabitants. Rather than instituting a massacre or expelling the Christian population, Saladin allowed them to leave peacefully if they could not afford to pay the ransom required for their release.

By 13th century, the Ayyubid dynasty lost control over Palestine to the Khwarazmian Empire, a Turkic dynasty from Central Asia. In 1260, the Mamluk Sultanate, a Turkic-Egyptian dynasty, defeated the Mongol Empire in the Battle of Ain Jalut, securing control over Palestine and Syria. The Mamluk Sultanate successfully repelled the Crusaders' final attempt to regain control, resulting in the fall of the last Crusader stronghold in Acre. The Mamluks maintained authority over Palestine.

Ottoman Palestine

By 14th century, the Ottoman Empire took control of the entire region. In 1516, the Ottoman Empire, led by Sultan Selim I, conquered Palestine from the Mamluks, who had ruled the region for several centuries. Under Ottoman rule, Palestine became part of a larger administrative unit known as the Sanjak of Jerusalem, which was initially part of the larger province of Syria. The Sanjak of Jerusalem included areas such as Jerusalem, Nablus, Gaza, and Jaffa.

Turk officer protecting the Tower of David in Jerusalem

The empire encouraged agricultural development, and various measures were taken to enhance agricultural productivity. The construction of irrigation systems, such as the qanat system, helped improve water distribution and facilitated agricultural expansion. Under Ottoman rule, Palestine saw an increase in the cultivation of cash crops like cotton and olives, which were exported to other regions. Religiously, Palestine held great significance for Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

The Ottomans maintained control over the holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They also regulated access to these sites and implemented various policies to manage religious affairs. Under the Ottoman Empire, Jews and Christians enjoyed a significant degree of protection and autonomy, particularly within the framework of the Ottoman millet system. The millet system recognized religious communities as separate legal entities, allowing them to govern their own internal affairs, including religious, educational, and legal matters. During periods of Jewish persecution in Europe, particularly during the late 15th century and onward, the Ottoman Empire provided a relative haven for Jewish refugees. Expelled Jews from Spain were rescued and then given asylum in the Ottoman ruled Palestine.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as nationalist sentiments grew across the region, Palestinian Arab nationalism also began to emerge. Intellectuals and elites in Palestine expressed a sense of identity and called for greater autonomy and self-governance. This period coincided with the rise of the Young Turks movement within the Ottoman Empire, which introduced some political reforms but also faced opposition from various groups. In the early 20th century, the Zionist movement gained momentum, aiming to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Jewish immigration increased, and Zionist organizations purchased land from local landowners, leading to tensions between Jews and Arabs. Abdul Hamid, the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire, opposed the Zionist movement's efforts in Palestine. The end of the Ottoman Empire's rule in Palestine came with the conclusion of World War I. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the region came under British control with the implementation of the British Mandate for Palestine in 1920.

British Mandate of Palestine

Pontifical Biblical Institute near King David Hotel

Under British rule, the history of Palestine witnessed significant political, social, and economic transformations. The British Mandate for Palestine began in 1920 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The mandate was established under the League of Nations, with the objective of facilitating the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine while protecting the rights of the Arab population.

During the initial years of the mandate, tensions between Jewish and Arab communities emerged. The British faced challenges in balancing the interests and demands of both groups. In 1936, a widespread Arab revolt erupted, demanding an end to Jewish immigration and land sales to Jewish settlers. The revolt was eventually suppressed by the British, leading to increased restrictions on both Arab and Jewish activities. As Jewish immigration continued, especially in the years leading up to and following World War II, the Zionist movement gained momentum. Jewish settlements expanded, and tensions between Jewish and Arab communities escalated. The White Paper was released by the British government, which rejected Peel Commission and proposed a unified Palestine as future country for both Arabs and Jews. As a response and acceptance by Arabs, revolt was ceased. However, the Zionist entity refused to accept the plan and started protesting against the White Paper. Military groups such as Irgun, Stern Gang and Haganah, started preparing for terror attacks. These includes King David Hotel bombing, Deir Yassin massacre and Haifa Oil Refinery massacre. Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were behind these attacks, who later became political leader of future Israel. The British struggled to maintain control and peace, and in 1947, they decided to withdraw from Palestine.

Arab–Israeli wars

In 1947, the UN adopted a partition plan for a two-state solution in the remaining territory of the mandate. The plan was accepted by the Jewish leadership but rejected by the Arab leaders, and Britain refused to implement the plan. On the eve of final British withdrawal, the Jewish Agency for Israel, headed by David Ben-Gurion, declared the establishment of the State of Israel according to the proposed UN plan. The Arab Higher Committee did not declare a state of its own and instead, together with Transjordan, Egypt, and the other members of the Arab League of the time, commenced military action resulting in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. During the war, Israel gained additional territories that were designated to be part of the Arab state under the UN plan. Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, and Transjordan occupied and then annexed the West Bank. Egypt initially supported the creation of an All-Palestine Government but disbanded it in 1959. Transjordan never recognized it and instead decided to incorporate the West Bank with its own territory to form Jordan. The annexation was ratified in 1950 but was rejected by the international community.

Yasser Arafat emerged as a national hero and leader for Palestinians.

In 1964, when the West Bank was controlled by Jordan, the Palestine Liberation Organization was established there with the goal to confront Israel. The Palestinian National Charter of the PLO defines the boundaries of Palestine as the whole remaining territory of the mandate, including Israel. The Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel fought against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, ended with Israel occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, besides other territories.[better source needed] Following the Six-Day War, the PLO moved to Jordan, but later relocated to Lebanon in 1971.[better source needed]

The October 1974 Arab League summit designated the PLO as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and reaffirmed "their right to establish an independent state of urgency." In November 1974, the PLO was recognized as competent on all matters concerning the question of Palestine by the UN General Assembly granting them observer status as a "non-state entity" at the UN. Through the Camp David Accords of 1979, Egypt signaled an end to any claim of its own over the Gaza Strip. In July 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank—with the exception of guardianship over Haram al-Sharif—to the PLO.

After Israel captured and occupied the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza Strip from Egypt, it began to establish Israeli settlements there. Administration of the Arab population of these territories was performed by the Israeli Civil Administration of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and by local municipal councils present since before the Israeli takeover. In 1980, Israel decided to freeze elections for these councils and to establish instead Village Leagues, whose officials were under Israeli influence. Later this model became ineffective for both Israel and the Palestinians, and the Village Leagues began to break up, with the last being the Hebron League, dissolved in February 1988.

State of Palestine

In November 1988, the PLO legislature, while in exile, declared the establishment of the "State of Palestine". In the month following, it was quickly recognized by many states, including Egypt and Jordan. In the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, the State of Palestine is described as being established on the "Palestinian territory", without explicitly specifying further. After the 1988 Declaration of Independence, the UN General Assembly officially acknowledged the proclamation and decided to use the designation "Palestine" instead of "Palestine Liberation Organization" in the UN. In spite of this decision, the PLO did not participate at the UN in its capacity of the State of Palestine's government.

Because of this, some of the countries that recognised the State of Palestine in their statements of recognition refer to the "1967 borders", thus recognizing as its territory only the occupied Palestinian territory, and not Israel. The UN membership application submitted by the State of Palestine also specified that it is based on the "1967 borders". During the negotiations of the Oslo Accords, the PLO recognised Israel's right to exist, and Israel recognised the PLO as representative of the Palestinian people. The 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence included a PNC call for multilateral negotiations on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242 later known as "the Historic Compromise", implying acceptance of a two-state solution and no longer questioning the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat during Oslo Accords

In 1993, in the Oslo Accords, Israel acknowledged the PLO negotiating team as "representing the Palestinian people", in return for the PLO recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace, acceptance of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and its rejection of "violence and terrorism". As a result, in 1994 the PLO established the Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA) territorial administration, that exercises some governmental functions in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As envisioned in the Oslo Accords, Israel allowed the PLO to establish interim administrative institutions in the Palestinian territories, which came in the form of the PNA. It was given civilian control in Area B and civilian and security control in Area A, and remained without involvement in Area C.

The Church of the Nativity at the city of Bethlehem in siege under Israel Defense Forces in 2002

The Second Intifada, which lasted from 2000 to 2005, was a period of intense conflict and violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Despite the diplomatic efforts, the peace process suffered a severe setback in 1999 when negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the Camp David Summit failed to reach a final status agreement. Disagreements over the issues of Jerusalem, borders, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees proved insurmountable. Following the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians escalated dramatically. In September 2000, the Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, erupted. The Second Intifada was characterized by a wave of violence, including suicide bombings, shootings, and Israeli military responses, resulting in a high number of casualties on both sides.

Efforts to revive the peace process continued, including the convening of the Taba Summit in January 2001. Although progress was made, negotiations eventually broke down due to the escalating violence and political changes in both Israeli and Palestinian leadership. In 2002, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, a major military incursion into Palestinian cities in response to the ongoing violence. The operation aimed to dismantle Palestinian militant infrastructure and restore security. However, it resulted in significant destruction and loss of life. Israel implemented stringent security measures, including checkpoints, curfews, and the construction of a separation barrier, to curb the attacks. These measures, while intended to enhance security, also led to restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, economic hardship, and the exacerbation of humanitarian conditions.

Efforts to mediate a ceasefire and resume peace negotiations were ongoing throughout this period. International actors, including the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union, made attempts to broker a truce and revive the peace process. However, these efforts faced significant challenges, including the deep-seated distrust, the escalation of violence, and the inability to address the core issues of the conflict. During this period, international efforts to revive the peace process gained momentum. The Quartet on the Middle East, consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations, proposed the Roadmap for Peace in 2003. The roadmap outlined a series of steps towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. However, the implementation of the roadmap faced significant challenges, and progress remained limited.

Post-Arafat period

In 2004, Arafat's health deteriorated, and he was confined to his headquarters in Ramallah by Israeli authorities. In November 2004, Yasser Arafat died, marking the end of an era for the Palestinian national movement. Following Arafat's death, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, assumed leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas advocated for a negotiated settlement with Israel and worked towards a ceasefire agreement, leading to a relative decrease in violence. On March 22, 2004, Ahmed Yassin was assassinated in an airstrike carried out by the Israeli military. The assassination of Ahmed Yassin had profound implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dynamics of the region. Hamas, under Yassin's leadership, was a powerful and influential force in Palestinian politics. Yassin's assassination not only removed a key figurehead of the organization but also galvanized support for Hamas.[citation needed] The act of targeting a prominent figure like Yassin also demonstrated Israel's willingness to employ targeted killings as a tactic, which further escalated the conflict and complicated efforts for peace.

In 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, withdrawing its military forces and dismantling settlements. The move was seen as a step towards Palestinian self-governance and the potential for progress. However, the withdrawal did not lead to a significant improvement in the overall situation, as Gaza soon fell under the control of the militant group Hamas. In 2005, following the implementation of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, the PNA gained full control of the Gaza Strip with the exception of its borders, airspace, and territorial waters.

Demonstration against road block, Kafr Qaddum, March 2012

Internal divisions between the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas, intensified during this period. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, leading to a political standoff with Fatah. The power struggle eventually escalated into armed clashes and resulted in a split between the West Bank, governed by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, and the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas. The division between the West Bank and Gaza complicated efforts to achieve Palestinian unity and negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. Multiple rounds of reconciliation talks were held, but no lasting agreement was reached. The division also hindered the establishment of a unified Palestinian state and led to different governance structures and policies in the two territories. Throughout this period, there were sporadic outbreaks of violence and tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. Since 2001, Incidents of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli territory and Israeli military operations in response often resulted in casualties and further strained the situation. Following the inter-Palestinian conflict in 2006, Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip (it already had majority in the PLC), and Fatah took control of the West Bank. From 2007, the Gaza Strip was governed by Hamas, and the West Bank by the Fatah party led Palestinian Authority. International efforts to revive the peace process continued. The United States, under the leadership of different administrations, made various attempts to broker negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. However, significant obstacles such as settlement expansion, the status of Jerusalem, borders, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, remained unresolved. In recent years, diplomatic initiatives have emerged, including the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab states, known as the Abraham Accords. These agreements, while not directly addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have reshaped regional dynamics and raised questions about the future of Palestinian aspirations for statehood. The status quo remains challenging for Palestinians, with ongoing issues of occupation, settlement expansion, restricted movement, and economic hardships. Efforts to find a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continue, but the path towards a comprehensive peace agreement and the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state remains uncertain.

A modern day city scene across Jerusalem, with view of Temple Mount and Al Aqsa

Geography

Dead Sea bordering Palestine is the lowest point on earth
Jordan River is the site of baptism of Jesus

The areas claimed by the State of Palestine lie in the Southern Levant. The Gaza Strip borders the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Egypt to the south, and Israel to the north and east. The West Bank is bordered by Jordan to the east, and Israel to the north, south, and west. Thus, the two enclaves constituting the area claimed by State of Palestine have no geographical border with one another, being separated by Israel. These areas would constitute the world's 163rd largest country by land area.[better source needed]

Mount Gerizim around Nablus is a holy place for Samaritans

The West Bank is located on the western side of the Jordan River and is characterized by a diverse landscape. It consists of fertile valleys, such as the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan River Valley, as well as mountainous areas, including the Samarian and Judean mountain ranges. East Jerusalem, a part of the West Bank, is a significant component of the Palestinian territories. It is located on a plateau in the central highlands and is surrounded by valleys. The Old City of Jerusalem, with its historical and religious sites, is centrally located within East Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip is a small coastal enclave located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

Palestine has a number of environmental issues; issues facing the Gaza Strip include desertification; salination of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne diseases; soil degradation; and depletion and contamination of underground water resources. In the West Bank, many of the same issues apply; although fresh water is much more plentiful, access is restricted by the ongoing dispute.

The Samarian Hills and Judean Hills are mountain ranges in the West Bank, with Mount Gerizim and Mount Hebron as their highest peaks. The Mount of Olives (Jabal Zaytun) is a significant hill east of Jerusalem, known for its religious sites. Mount Carmel extends into the northern West Bank and is renowned for its natural beauty. Three terrestrial ecoregions are found in the area: Eastern Mediterranean conifer–sclerophyllous–broadleaf forests, Arabian Desert, and Mesopotamian shrub desert. Palestine features significant lakes and rivers that play a vital role in its geography and ecosystems. The Jordan River flows southward, forming part of Palestine's eastern border and passing through the Sea of Galilee before reaching the Dead Sea. These waterways provide essential resources for agriculture, recreation, and support various ecosystems.

Climate

Temperatures in Palestine vary widely. The climate in the West Bank is mostly Mediterranean, slightly cooler at elevated areas compared with the shoreline, west to the area. In the east, the West Bank includes much of the Judean Desert including the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, characterised by dry and hot climate. Gaza has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSh) with mild winters and dry hot summers.[citation needed] Spring arrives around March–April and the hottest months are July and August, with the average high being 33 °C (91 °F). The coldest month is January with temperatures usually at 7 °C (45 °F). Rain is scarce and generally falls between November and March, with annual precipitation rates approximately at 4.57 inches (116 mm).

Biodiversity

Camels on Judaean Desert

Palestine does not have officially recognized national parks or protected areas. However, there are areas within the West Bank that are considered to have ecological and cultural significance and are being managed with conservation efforts. These areas are often referred to as nature reserves or protected zones. Located near Jericho in the West Bank, Wadi Qelt is a desert valley with unique flora and fauna.

The reserve is known for its rugged landscapes, natural springs, and historical sites such as the St. George Monastery. Efforts have been made to protect the biodiversity and natural beauty of the area. The Judaean Desert is popular for "Judaean Camels". Qalqilya Zoo in Qalqilya Governorate, is the only zoo currently active in the country. Gaza Zoo was closed due to poor conditions. Israeli government have built various national parks in the Area C, which is also considered illegal under international law.

Government and politics

Mausoleum of Yasser Arafat at the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in Ramallah

Palestine is a semi-presidential country. The country consists of the institutions that are associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which includes President of the State of Palestine – appointed by the Palestinian Central Council, Palestinian National Council – the legislature that established the State of Palestine and Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization – performs the functions of a government in exile, maintaining an extensive foreign-relations network. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is combination of several political parties.

These should be distinguished from the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and PNA Cabinet, all of which are instead associated with the Palestinian National Authority. The State of Palestine's founding document is the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, and it should be distinguished from the unrelated PLO Palestinian National Covenant and PNA Palestine Basic Law.

The Palestinian government is divided into two geographic entities — the Palestinian Authority governed by Fatah and have control over the territory of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which is under control of the militant group Hamas. Fatah is a secular party, which was founded by Yasser Arafat and relatively enjoys a good relations with the western powers. On other hand, Hamas is a militant group, based on Palestinian nationalist and Islamic ideology, inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas have tense relations with the United States, however receives support from Iran. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is another popular secular party, which was founded by George Habash. Mahmoud Abbas is the president of the country since 2005. Mohammad Shtayyeh was the prime minister of Palestine, who resigned in 2024. In 2024, Mohammad Mustafa was appointed as the new prime minister of the country, after resigning of Shtayyeh. While Yahya Sinwar is leader of Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. According to Freedom House, the PNA governs Palestine in an authoritarian manner, including by repressing activists and journalists critical of the government.

Jerusalem including Haram ash-Sharif, is claimed as capital by Palestine, which has been under occupation by Israel. Currently the temporary administration center is in Ramallah, which is 10 km from Jerusalem. Muqata hosts state ministries and representative office. The former building Gaza was destroyed in 2009 war. In 2000, a government building was built in Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, to house office of Yasser Arafat and Palestinian parliament. Since second intifada, condition of the town made this site unsuitable to operate as a capital, either temporarily or permanently. Nevertheless, the Palestinian entity have maintained their presence in the city. As few parts of the city is also under Palestinian control and many some countries have their consulates in Jerusalem.

Map of the Palestinian Governorates (official)
Map of showing Palestinian controlled areas

Law and security

The State of Palestine has a number of security forces, including a Civil Police Force, National Security Forces and Intelligence Services, with the function of maintaining security and protecting Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian State. All of these forces are part of Palestinian Security Services. The PSF is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, law enforcement, and counterterrorism operations in areas under Palestinian Authority control.

The Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) is the standing army of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It was established during the early years of the Palestinian national movement but has largely been inactive since the Oslo Accords. The PLA's role was intended to be a conventional military force but has shifted to a more symbolic and political role. There are various armed factions within Palestine, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and other smaller groups. These factions have their own armed wings (Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and Al Quds Brigades) and maintain paramilitary capabilities. They primarily focus on resistance activities against Israeli occupation and have engaged in armed conflicts with Israel in the past.

The military capabilities of Palestine are significantly limited compared to the Israeli army (IDF). The Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements have placed restrictions on the size and armament of Palestinian security forces. The PA's security forces primarily focus on internal security rather than conventional military operations.

Administrative divisions

The State of Palestine is divided into sixteen administrative divisions.

Map of Israeli settlements in the West Bank

The governorates in the West Bank are grouped into three areas per the Oslo II Accord. Area A forms 18% of the West Bank by area, and is administered by the Palestinian government. Area B forms 22% of the West Bank, and is under Palestinian civil control, and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control. Area C, except East Jerusalem, forms 60% of the West Bank, and is administered by the Israeli Civil Administration, however, the Palestinian government provides the education and medical services to the 150,000 Palestinians in the area, an arrangement agreed upon in the Oslo II accord by Israeli and Palestinian leadership. More than 99% of Area C is off limits to Palestinians, due to security concerns and is a point of ongoing negotiation. There are about 330,000 Israelis living in settlements in Area C. Although Area C is under martial law, Israelis living there are entitled to full civic rights. Palestinian enclaves currently under Palestinian administration in red (Areas A and B; not including Gaza Strip, which is under Hamas rule).

East Jerusalem (comprising the small pre-1967 Jordanian eastern-sector Jerusalem municipality together with a significant area of the pre-1967 West Bank demarcated by Israel in 1967) is administered as part of the Jerusalem District of Israel but is claimed by Palestine as part of the Jerusalem Governorate. It was effectively annexed by Israel in 1967, by application of Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration under a 1948 law amended for the purpose, this purported annexation being constitutionally reaffirmed (by implication) in Basic Law: Jerusalem 1980, but this annexation is not recognised by any other country. In 2010 of the 456,000 people in East Jerusalem, roughly 60% were Palestinians and 40% were Israelis. However, since the late 2000s, Israel's West Bank Security Barrier has effectively re-annexed tens of thousands of Palestinians bearing Israeli ID cards to the West Bank, leaving East Jerusalem within the barrier with a small Israeli majority (60%).[citation needed] Under Oslo Accords, Jerusalem was proposed to be included in future negotiations and according to Israel, Oslo Accords prohibits the Palestinian Authority to operates in Jerusalem. However, certain parts of Jerusalem, those neighborhoods which are located outside the historic Old City but are part of East Jerusalem, were allotted to the Palestinian Authority.

A map showing governorates of Palestine
Name Area (km2) Population Density (per km2) Muhafazah (district capital)
Jenin 583 311,231 533.8 Jenin
Tubas 402 64,719 161.0 Tubas
Tulkarm 246 182,053 740.0 Tulkarm
Nablus 605 380,961 629.7 Nablus
Qalqiliya 166 110,800 667.5 Qalqilya
Salfit 204 70,727 346.7 Salfit
Ramallah & Al-Bireh 855 348,110 407.1 Ramallah
Jericho & Al Aghwar 593 52,154 87.9 Jericho
Jerusalem 345 419,108a 1214.8 Jerusalem (see Status of Jerusalem)
Bethlehem 659 216,114 927.9 Bethlehem
Hebron 997 706,508 708.6 Hebron
North Gaza 61 362,772 5947.1 Jabalya[citation needed]
Gaza 74 625,824 8457.1 Gaza City
Deir Al-Balah 58 264,455 4559.6 Deir al-Balah
Khan Yunis 108 341,393 3161.0 Khan Yunis
Rafah 64 225,538 3524.0 Rafah
  1. ^ Data from Jerusalem includes occupied East Jerusalem with its Israeli population

Foreign relations

Belgian Consulate to Palestine in Jerusalem

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) represents the State of Palestine and maintains embassies in countries that recognize it. The PLO also participates in international organizations as a member, associate, or observer. In some cases, due to conflicting sources, it is difficult to determine if the participation is on behalf of the State of Palestine, the PLO as a non-state entity, or the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). A majority of Arab and Muslim countries, including Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have supported the country, due to religious and cultural relations. Egypt and Jordan, apart from supporting, have also signed peace treaties with Israel. Egypt and Qatar acts as a mediator between Hamas controlled Gaza and Israel. Countries like India and Republic of Ireland have strongly showed support of an independent Palestine, coexisting with Israel.

President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurating ICT center at Al-Quds University, Jerusalem in 2015

In 1988, the State of Palestine's declaration of independence was acknowledged by the General Assembly with Resolution 43/177. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 67/19, granting Palestine "non-member observer state" status, effectively recognizing it as a sovereign state. Sweden took a significant step in 2013 by upgrading the status of the Palestinian representative office to a full embassy. They became the first EU member state outside the former communist bloc to officially recognize the state of Palestine.

The UK House of Commons voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state in 2014, as a contribution towards achieving a negotiated two-state solution. However, the UK government maintained its policy of reserving the right to recognize Palestine bilaterally at a more opportune time for peace efforts. Similarly, in 2014, the French parliament passed a resolution urging their government to recognize Palestine as a state, with the intention of facilitating a definitive resolution to the conflict. A United Nations Security Council resolution proposed in 2014, calling for the end of Israeli occupation and statehood by 2017, did not pass due to opposition and abstentions.

In January 2015, the International Criminal Court affirmed Palestine's "State" status after its UN observer recognition. The Vatican shifted recognition to the State of Palestine in May 2015, following the 2012 UN vote. This change aligned with the Holy See's evolving position. In December 2015, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources in the occupied territories. It called on Israel to cease exploitation and damage while granting Palestinians the right to seek restitution. Currently, 139 UN member states (72%) recognize the State of Palestine. Though some do not recognize it, they acknowledge the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO's executive committee acts as the government, empowered by the PNC. Palestine is a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League, the G77, the International Olympic Committee and the Union for the Mediterranean.

Legal status

There are a wide variety of views regarding the status of the State of Palestine, both among the states of the international community and among legal scholars. The existence of a state of Palestine, although controversial, is a reality in the opinions of the states that have established bilateral diplomatic relations.

Raising the flag at the UN

In August 2015, Palestine's representatives at the UN presented a draft resolution that would allow the non-member observer states Palestine and the Holy See to raise their flags at the United Nations headquarters. Initially, the Palestinians presented their initiative as a joint effort with the Holy See, which the Holy See denied.

In a letter to the Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly, Israel's Ambassador at the UN Ron Prosor called the step "another cynical misuse of the UN ... in order to score political points".

After the vote, which was passed by 119 votes to 8 with 45 countries abstaining, the US Ambassador Samantha Power said that "raising the Palestinian flag will not bring Israelis and Palestinians any closer together". US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner called it a "counterproductive" attempt to pursue statehood claims outside of a negotiated settlement.

At the ceremony itself, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the occasion was a "day of pride for the Palestinian people around the world, a day of hope", and declared "Now is the time to restore confidence by both Israelis and Palestinians for a peaceful settlement and, at last, the realization of two states for two peoples."

International recognition

  State of Palestine
  Countries that have recognised the State of Palestine
  Countries that have not recognised the State of Palestine

The State of Palestine has been recognized by 143 of the 193 UN members and since 2012 has had a status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations.

On 29 November 2012, in a 138–9 vote (with 41 abstentions and 5 absences), the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 67/19, upgrading Palestine from an "observer entity" to a "non-member observer state" within the United Nations System, which was described as recognition of the PLO's sovereignty. Palestine's new status is equivalent to that of the Holy See. The UN has permitted Palestine to title its representative office to the UN as "The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations", and Palestine has instructed its diplomats to officially represent "The State of Palestine"—no longer the Palestinian National Authority. On 17 December 2012, UN Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon declared that "the designation of 'State of Palestine' shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents", thus recognising the title 'State of Palestine' as the state's official name for all UN purposes; on 21 December 2012, a UN memorandum discussed appropriate terminology to be used following GA 67/19. It was noted therein that there was no legal impediment to using the designation Palestine to refer to the geographical area of the Palestinian territory. At the same time, it was explained that there was also no bar to the continued use of the term "Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem" or such other terminology as might customarily be used by the Assembly. As of 4 April 2024, 140 (72.5%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognised the State of Palestine. Many of the countries that do not recognise the State of Palestine nevertheless recognise the PLO as the "representative of the Palestinian people". The PLO's Executive Committee is empowered by the Palestinian National Council to perform the functions of government of the State of Palestine.

On 2 April 2024, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, requested that the Security Council consider a renewed application for membership, supported by the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the 120-member Nonaligned Movement. As of April, seven of the council's 15 members recognize the state of Palestine but the US has indicated that it opposes the request and in addition, US law stipulates that US funding for the UN would be cut off in the event of full recognition without an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. On 18 April, the US vetoed a widely supported UN resolution that would have admitted Palestine as a full UN member.

Economy

Construction of Rawabi Industrial area and some of the neighborhoods
Ammar Tower in Al-Bireh

Palestine is classified as a middle income and developing country by the IMF. In 2023, GDP of the country was $40 billion and per-capita around $4,500. Due to its disputed status, the economic condition have been affected. The CO2 Emission (metric tons per capita) was 0.6 in 2010. According to a survey of 2011, Palestine's poverty rate was 25.8%. According to a new World Bank report, Palestinian economic growth is expected to soften in 2023. Economy of Palestine relies heavily on international aids, remittances by overseas Palestinians and local industries.

Since 1970s, Palestinians were employed in Israel. During this period, the Palestinian economy was significantly greater than the majority of Arab states. The period between 1993 and 2000, known as "Oslo Years", brought a great prosperity to the country. In 1998, the Palestinian Authority built Gaza International Airport. Signed in 1994, the Paris Protocols however have prohibited the country from having its own currency. The 2000–2005 uprisings severely affected the economy and destroyed the national infrastructure. After victory of Hamas, sanctions were imposed , which was lifted up later. Since 2007, Israel have blockaded the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Salam Fayyad became the prime minister and instituted reforms, which improved the economy. Since 2010, Palestine experienced a moderate economic boom. The Gaza Strip was also recovering slightly until it was crashed in the 2023 war.

Palestinian economy relies heavily on donations and international aid from various sources, including UNRWA, Qatar, Turkey, the European Union, and non-governmental organizations. Contribution to the economy also comes from remittances sent by the Palestinian diaspora. Gazans experience additional difficulties as they are subjected to a siege, with Israel controlling the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza. Nonetheless, there are limited business opportunities available in Gaza. Contrastingly, the West Bank provides Palestinians with more diverse opportunities. Some individuals own businesses in tourism-driven areas such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem, as tourism serves as a significant source of income. Others engage in various types of enterprises in cities like Ramallah and Hebron, ranging from trading to construction and IT services. Furthermore, approximately 100,000 Palestinians find employment in Israeli companies as low-cost labor, earning significantly less than the average Israeli worker.

Agriculture

After Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, Palestinian agriculture suffered significant setbacks. The sector's contribution to the GDP declined, and the agricultural labor force decreased. The cultivated areas in the West Bank continuously declined since 1967. Palestinian farmers face obstacles in marketing and distributing their products, and Israeli restrictions on water usage have severely affected Palestinian agriculture. Over 85% of Palestinian water from the West Bank aquifers is used by Israel, and Palestinians are denied access to water resources from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers.

In Gaza, the coastal aquifer is suffering from saltwater intrusion. Israeli restrictions have limited irrigation of Palestinian land, with only 6% of West Bank land cultivated by Palestinians being irrigated, while Israeli settlers irrigate around 70% of their land. The Gulf War in 1991 had severe repercussions on Palestinian agriculture, as the majority of exports were previously sent to Arab Gulf countries. Palestinian exports to the Gulf States declined by 14% as a result of the war, causing a significant economic impact.

Water supply and sanitation

Water supply and sanitation in the Palestinian territories are characterized by severe water shortage and are highly influenced by the Israeli occupation. The water resources of Palestine are partially controlled by Israel due in part from historical and geographical complexities with Israel granting partial autonomy in 2017. The division of groundwater is subject to provisions in the Oslo II Accord, agreed upon by both Israeli and Palestinian leadership.[citation needed] Israel provides the Palestinain territories water from its own water supply and desalinated water supplies, in 2012 supplying 52 MCM.

Generally, the water quality is considerably worse in the Gaza Strip when compared to the West Bank. About a third to half of the delivered water in the Palestinian territories is lost in the distribution network. The lasting blockade of the Gaza Strip and the Gaza War have caused severe damage to the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Concerning wastewater, the existing treatment plants do not have the capacity to treat all of the produced wastewater, causing severe water pollution. The development of the sector highly depends on external financing.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing and exports in Palestine includes sectors such as textiles, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, furniture, plastic products, stone, and electronics. Some notable products are garments, olive oil, dairy products, furniture, ceramics, and construction materials. Before the second intifada, Palestine had a strong industrial base in Jerusalem and Gaza. Barriers erected in the West Bank have made movement of goods difficult; the blockade of the Gaza Strip has severely affected the territory's economic conditions. As of 2023, according to the Ministry of Economy, the manufacturing sector expected to grow by 2.5% and create 79,000 jobs over the following six years. Palestine mainly exports articles of stone (limestone, marble – 13.3%), furniture (11.7%), plastics (10.2%) and iron and steel (9.1%). Most of these products are exported to Jordan, the United States, Israel and Egypt.

Hebron is industrially most advanced city in the region and serves as an export hub for Palestinian products. More than 40% of the national economy produced there. The most advanced printing press in the Middle East is in Hebron. Many quarries are in the surrounding region. Silicon reserves are found in the Gaza territory. Jerusalem stone, extracted in the West Bank, has been used for constructing many structures in Jerusalem. Hebron is widely known for its glass production. Nablus is noted for its Nablus soap. Some of the companies operating in the Palestinian territories include Siniora Foods, Sinokrot Industries, Schneider Electric, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.

Israeli–Palestinian economic peace efforts have resulted in several initiatives, such as the Valley of Peace initiative and Breaking the Impasse, which promote industrial projects between Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries, with the goal of promoting peace and ending conflict. These include joint industrial parks opened in Palestine. The Palestinian Authority has built industrial cities in Gaza, Bethlehem, Jericho, Jenin and Hebron. Some are in joint cooperation with European countries.

Energy

A solar plant in Jericho

Palestine does not produces its own oil or gas. But as per UN reports, "sizeable reserves of oil and gas" lies in the Palestinian territories. Due to its state of conflict, most of the energy and fuels in Palestine are imported from Israel and other all neighboring countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In 2012, electricity available in West Bank and Gaza was 5,370 GW-hour (3,700 in the West Bank and 1,670 in Gaza), while the annual per capita consumption of electricity (after deducting transmission loss) was 950 kWh. The Gaza Power Plant is the only power plant in the Gaza Strip. It is owned by Gaza Power Generating Company (GPGC), a subsidiary of the Palestine Electric Company (PEC). Jerusalem District Electricity Company, a subsidiary of PEC, provides electricity to Palestinan residents of Jerusalem.

Government officials have increasingly focused on solar energy to reduce dependency on Israel for energy. Palestine Investment Fund have launched "Noor Palestine", a project which aims to provide power in Palestine. Qudra Energy, a joint venture between Bank of Palestine and NAPCO have established solar power plants across Jammala, Nablus, Birzeit and Ramallah. In 2019, under Noor Palestine campaign, first solar power plant and solar park was inaugurated in Jenin. Two more solar parks have been planned for Jericho and Tubas. A new solar power plant is under construction at Abu Dis campus of Al-Quds University, for serving Palestinian Jerusalemites.

Oil and gas

Palestine holds massive potential reserves of oil and gas. Over 3 billion barrels (480,000,000 m3) of oil are estimated to exist off the coast and beneath occupied Palestinian lands. The Levant Basin holds around 1.7 billion barrels (270,000,000 m3) of oil, with another 1.5 billion barrels (240,000,000 m3) barrels beneath the occupied West Bank area. Around 2 billion barrels (320,000,000 m3) of oil reserves are believed to exist in shore of the Gaza Strip. According to a report by the UNCTAD, around 1,250 billion barrels (1.99×1011 m3) of oil reserves are in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, probably the Meged oil field. As per the Palestinian Authority, 80% of this oil field falls under the lands owned by Palestinians.

Masadder, a subsidiary of the Palestine Investment Fund is developing the oilfield in the West Bank. Block-1 field, which spans an area of 432 square kilometres (167 sq mi) from northwest Ramallah to Qalqilya in Palestine, has significant potential for recoverable hydrocarbon resources. It is estimated to have a P90 (a level of certainty) of 0.03 billion barrels (4,800,000 m3) of recoverable oil and 6,000,000,000 cubic feet (170,000,000 m3). The estimated cost for the development of the field is $390 million, and it will be carried out under a production sharing agreement with the Government of Palestine. Currently, an initial pre-exploration work program is underway to prepare for designing an exploration plan for approval, which will precede the full-fledged development of the field.

Natural gas in Palestine is mostly found in Gaza Strip. Gaza Marine is a natural gas field, located around 32 kilometres (20 mi) from the coast of the territory in the Mediterranean shore. It holds gas reserves ranging between 28 billion cubic metres (990 billion cubic feet) to 32 billion cubic metres (1.1 trillion cubic feet). These estimates far exceed the needs of the Palestinian territories in energy. The gas field was discovered by the British Gas Group in 1999. Upon the discovery of the gas field, it was lauded by Yasser Arafat as a "Gift from God". A regional cooperation between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt were signed for developing the field and Hamas also gave approval to the Palestinian Authority. However, since the ongoing war in Gaza, this project have been delayed.

Transportation

A multilingual signboard in Hebron Governorate

Two airports of Palestine — Jerusalem International Airport and Gaza International Airport were destroyed by Israel in the early years of the second intifada. Since then no any airport has been operational in the country. Palestinians used to travel through airports in Israel — Ben Gurion Airport and Ramon Airport and Queen Alia International Airport of Amman, capital of Jordan. Many proposals have been made by both the government and private entities to build airports in the country. In 2021, the most recent proposal was made by both the Palestinian government and Israeli government to redevelop Qalandia Airport as a binational airport for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Gaza Strip is the only coastal region of Palestine, where Port of Gaza is located. It is under naval siege by Israel, since the territory's blockade. During Oslo years, the Palestinian government collaborated with the Netherlands and France to build an international seaport but the project was abandoned. In 2021, then prime minister of Israel Naftali Bennett launched a development project for Gaza, which would include a seaport.

Tourism

Al Deira Hotel in Gaza, before the 2023 Israel Hamas war
Jerusalem is holy for world's three major religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism, as well as for Mandaeism

Tourism in the country refers to tourism in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In 2010, 4.6 million people visited the Palestinian territories, compared to 2.6 million in 2009. Of that number, 2.2 million were foreign tourists while 2.7 million were domestic. Most tourists come for only a few hours or as part of a day trip itinerary. In the last quarter of 2012 over 150,000 guests stayed in West Bank hotels; 40% were European and 9% were from the United States and Canada. Lonely Planet travel guide writes that "the West Bank is not the easiest place in which to travel but the effort is richly rewarded." Sacred sites such as the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque draw countless pilgrims and visitors each year.

In 2013 Palestinian Authority Tourism minister Rula Ma'ay'a stated that her government aims to encourage international visits to Palestine, but the occupation is the main factor preventing the tourism sector from becoming a major income source to Palestinians. There are no visa conditions imposed on foreign nationals other than those imposed by the visa policy of Israel. Access to Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza is completely controlled by the government of Israel. Entry to the occupied Palestinian territories requires only a valid international passport. Tourism is mostly centered around Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Jericho is a popular tourist spot for local Palestinians.

Communications

Palestine is known as the "Silicon Valley of NGOs". The high tech industry in Palestine, have experienced good growth since 2008. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and the Ministry of Telecom and Information Technology said there were 4.2 million cellular mobile subscribers in Palestine compared to 2.6 million at the end of 2010 while the number of ADSL subscribers in Palestine increased to about 363 thousand by the end of 2019 from 119 thousand over the same period. 97% of Palestinian households have at least one cellular mobile line while at least one smartphone is owned by 86% of households (91% in the West Bank and 78% in Gaza Strip). About 80% of the Palestinian households have access to the internet in their homes and about a third have a computer.

On 12 June 2020, the World Bank approved a US$15 million grant for the Technology for Youth and Jobs (TechStart) Project aiming to help the Palestinian IT sector upgrade the capabilities of firms and create more high-quality jobs. Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza said "The IT sector has the potential to make a strong contribution to economic growth. It can offer opportunities to Palestinian youth, who constitute 30% of the population and suffer from acute unemployment."

Financial services

A bank in Salfit

The Palestine Monetary Authority has issued guidelines for the operation and provision of electronic payment services including e-wallet and prepaid cards. Protocol on Economic Relations, also known as Paris Protocol was signed between the PLO and Israel, which prohibited Palestinian Authority from having its own currency. This agreement paved a way for the government to collect taxes.

Prior to 1994, the occupied Palestinian territories had limited banking options, with Palestinians avoiding Israeli banks. This resulted in an under-banked region and a cash-based economy. Currently, there are 14 banks operating in Palestine, including Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian banks, compared to 21 in 2000. The number of banks has decreased over time due to mergers and acquisitions. Deposits in Palestinian banks have seen significant growth, increasing from US$1.2 billion in 2007 to US$6.9 billion in 2018, representing a 475% increase. The banking sector has shown impressive annual growth rates in deposits and loan portfolios, surpassing global averages.

The combined loan facilities provided by all banks on December 31, 2018, amounted to US$8.4 billion, marking a significant growth of 492 percent compared to US$1.42 billion in 2007. Palestinian registered banks accounted for US$0.60 billion or 42 percent of total deposits in 2007, while in 2018, the loans extended by Palestinian registered banks reached US$5.02 billion, representing 61 percent of total loans. This showcases a remarkable 737 percent increase between 2007 and 2018. Currently, Palestinian registered banks hold 57 percent of customer deposits and provide 61 percent of the loans, compared to 26 percent of deposits and 42 percent of loans in 2007.

Demographics

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), as of 26 May 2021, the State of Palestine 2021 mid-year population is 5,227,193. Ala Owad, the president of the PCBS, estimated a population of 5.3 million as of end year 2021. Within an area of 6,020 square kilometres (2,320 sq mi), there is a population density of about 827 people per square kilometer. To put this in a wider context, the average population density of the world was 25 people per square kilometre as of 2017.

Half of the Palestinian population are diaspora and refugees. Due to being in a state of conflict with Israel, the subsequent wars have resulted displacement of a number of Palestinians, known as Nakba or Naksa. In the 1948 war, around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled. Most of them are seeking refuge in neighboring Arab countries like Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. While many lives as expats in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. A large number of them can be found in the United States, the United Kingdom and rest of Europe.

Population

 
Largest cities or towns in Palestine
Rank Name Governorate Municipal pop.
Gaza
Gaza
Jerusalem
Jerusalem
1 Gaza Gaza Governorate 766,331 Hebron
Hebron
Nablus
Nablus
2 Jerusalem Jerusalem Governorate 542,400
3 Hebron Hebron Governorate 308,750
4 Nablus Nablus Governorate 239,772
5 Khan Yunis Khan Yunis Governorate 179,701
6 Jabalia North Gaza Governorate 165,110
7 Rafah Rafah Governorate 158,414
8 Jenin Jenin Governorate 115,305
9 Ramallah Ramallah and al-Bireh 104,173
10 Beit Lahia North Gaza Governorate 86,526

Religion

Religion of Palestinians (est. 2014)

  Islam (93%)
  Christianity (6%)
  Druze and Samaritans (1%)

Palestine has been known for its religious significance and site of many holy places, with religion playing an important role in shaping the country's society and culture. It is known as holy site for major Abrahamic religions. The Palestine Basic Law states that Islam is the official religion but also grants freedom of religion, calling for respect and sanctity for other faiths.

93% of Palestinians are Muslim, the vast majority of whom are followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, with a small minority of Ahmadiyya, and 15% being nondenominational Muslims. Palestinian Christians represent a significant minority of 6%, followed by much smaller religious communities, including Druze[citation needed] and Samaritans. The largest concentration of Christians can be found in the cities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala in the West Bank, as well as in the Gaza Strip. The majority of Palestinian Christians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, including the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Syriac Orthodox Churches. Additionally, there are significant communities of Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics (Melkites), and various Protestant denominations.

Samaritans are highly concentrated around the Mount Gerizim, which is a holy place for them. Palestinian Jews are identified as those Jews who lived in Palestine region, before establishment of Israel and today they are Israeli citizens.[citation needed] However, the PLO considers Palestinian Jews those Jews, who lived in the peacefully before the rise of Zionism.[citation needed] Certain peoples, specially anti-Zionists considers themselves as Palestinian Jews such as Ilan Halevi and Uri Davis.

Education

Students at Birzeit University
The administration building of the Islamic University of Gaza

The literacy rate of Palestine was 96.3% according to a 2014 report by the United Nations Development Programme, which is high by international standards. There is a gender difference in the population aged above 15 with 5.9% of women considered illiterate compared to 1.6% of men. Illiteracy among women has fallen from 20.3% in 1997 to less than 6% in 2014. In the State of Palestine, the Gaza Strip has the highest literacy rate. According to a press blog of Columbia University, Palestinians are the most educated refugees.

The education system in Palestine encompasses both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and it is administered by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Basic education in Palestine includes primary school (grades 1–4) and preparatory school (grades 5–10). Secondary education consists of general secondary education (grades 11–12) and vocational education. The curriculum includes subjects such as Arabic, English, mathematics, science, social studies, and physical education. Islamic and Christian religious studies are also part of the curriculum as per the educational ministry.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip together have 14 universities, 18 university colleges and 20 community colleges. While there are 3,000 schools are in Palestine. An-Najah National University in Nablus is the largest university of the country, followed by Al-Quds University in Jerusalem and Birzeit University in Birzeit near Ramallah. Al-Quds University achieved 5-star rating in quality standards and was termed as "socially most responsible university in the Arab world". In 2018, Birzeit University was ranked as one of the top 2.7% of universities worldwide by World University Rankings in its 2019 edition.

Health

A hospital in Bethlehem

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH), as of 2017, there were 743 primary health care centers in Palestine (583 in the West Bank and 160 in Gaza), and 81 hospitals (51 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 30 in Gaza). The largest hospital of the West Bank is in Nablus, while Al-Shifa Hospital in largest in the Gaza Strip.

Operating under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Health Cluster for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) was established in 2009 and represents a partnership of over 70 local and international nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies providing a framework for health actors involved in the humanitarian response for the oPt. The Cluster is co-chaired by the MOH to ensure alignment with national policies and plans. The report of WHO Director-General of 1 May 2019 describes health sector conditions in the oPt identifying strategic priorities and current obstacles to their achievement pursuant to the country cooperation strategy for WHO and the Occupied Palestinian Territory 2017–2020.

Culture

Streets of the Old City of Jerusalem by night during Ramadan

Palestinians are ethnically and linguistically considered part of the Arab world. The culture of Palestine has had a heavy influence on religion, arts, literature, sports architecture, and cinema. UNESCO have recognized Palestinian culture. The Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) brings together Palestinian and international writers, musicians, and artists for a celebration of literature and culture. The annual Palestine Cinema Days festival showcases Palestinian films and filmmakers.

Culture of Palestine is an amalgamation of indigenous traditions, Arab customs, and the heritage of various empires that have ruled the region. The land of Palestine has witnessed the presence of ancient civilizations such as the Canaanites, Philistines, and Israelites, each contributing to its cultural fabric. The Arab conquest in the 7th century brought the influence of Islam, which has been a cornerstone of Palestinian identity ever since. Islamic traditions, including language, art, and architecture, have infused the culture with distinct features.

Palestinian cultural expression often serves as a form of resistance against occupation and oppression. Street art, such as the work of Banksy in Bethlehem, and the annual Palestinian music and arts festival, Al-Mahatta, are examples of this cultural resistance. The Old City of Jerusalem, with its religious sites like the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, holds immense cultural and historical significance. Other notable cultural sites include the ancient city of Jericho, the archaeological site of Sebastia, and the town of Bethlehem.

Architecture

The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit

Palestinian architecture encompasses a rich heritage that reflects the cultural and historical diversity of the region. Throughout its history, Palestinian architecture has been influenced by various civilizations, including Islamic, Byzantine, Crusader, and Ottoman. Traditional Palestinian architecture is characterized by its use of local materials such as stone and traditional construction techniques. The architectural style varies across different regions, with notable features including arched doorways, domes, and intricate geometric patterns. Islamic architecture has left a profound impact on Palestinian buildings. Mosques, mausoleums, and madrasas showcase exquisite craftsmanship, with notable examples including the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the Great Mosque of Nablus.

Palestine is home to several Byzantine and Crusader architectural marvels. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which dates back to the 4th century, is a significant pilgrimage site. The Crusader fortress of Krak des Chevaliers in the Golan Heights is another remarkable example. During the Ottoman period, numerous mosques, palaces, and public buildings were constructed throughout Palestine. The iconic Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem underwent restoration and renovation in the Ottoman era, showcasing a blend of Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements.

Rasem Badran and Mohamed Hadid are popular Palestinian architects. In recent years, modern architecture has emerged in Palestine, blending traditional elements with contemporary designs. The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, designed by Heneghan Peng Architects, exemplifies this fusion, incorporating local motifs and sustainable building practices. International Convention Center in Bethlehem, is a prominent structure showcasing contemporary Palestinian architecture. Another notable building is the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem. Elements of modern architecture can be found in shopping malls, luxury hotels, technology parks and high rise skyscrapers. The Palestine Trade Tower in Ramallah is the tallest building in Palestine.

Art, music, and clothing

Mohammed Assaf
Palestinian children in their traditional dress

Traditional Palestinian music is deeply rooted in the region's history and culture. It features instruments such as the oud (a stringed instrument), the qanun (a type of zither), and various percussion instruments. Traditional folk songs often depict themes of love, longing, and daily life experiences. Artists like Mohammad Assaf, winner of the Arab Idol competition, have gained international recognition for their renditions of traditional Palestinian songs.

Dabke is a popular Palestinian dance form accompanied by music. The lively and rhythmic music is characterized by the use of the mijwiz (a reed flute), the tablah (a drum), and the handclapping of dancers. Dabke songs are often performed at weddings, celebrations, and cultural events, fostering a sense of community and shared identity. Palestinian pop music has gained popularity in recent years, blending modern elements with traditional influences. Artists like Mohammed Assaf, Amal Murkus, and Rim Banna have contributed to the contemporary pop scene with their unique styles and powerful voices. Their songs address both personal and political themes, resonating with Palestinians and audiences worldwide.

Palestinian hip-hop has emerged as a powerful medium for expressing the realities and struggles faced by Palestinians. Artists such as DAM, Shadia Mansour, and Tamer Nafar have gained international recognition for their socially conscious lyrics, addressing topics such as occupation, identity, and resistance. Palestinian hip-hop serves as a form of cultural resistance, amplifying the voices of Palestinian youth. Rim Banna was a Palestinian singer known for her ethereal vocals and her dedication to preserving Palestinian folk music. Reem Kelani, a Palestinian musician based in the United Kingdom, is renowned for her powerful voice and her reinterpretation of traditional Palestinian songs. Dalal Abu Amneh is a popular Palestinian singer and poet.

Media

There are a number of newspapers, news agencies, and satellite television stations in the State of Palestine. Its news agencies include Ma'an News Agency, Wafa, and Palestine News Network. Al-Aqsa TV, Al-Quds TV, and Sanabel TV are its main satellite broadcasters.

Cinema

The cinema of Palestine has been shaped by pioneering filmmakers such as Elia Suleiman, Hany Abu-Assad, and Annemarie Jacir. Their works have gained international acclaim while shedding light on the Palestinian experience. Palestinian films have received recognition and awards at prestigious film festivals worldwide. For example, Hany Abu-Assad's film "Paradise Now" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006. Palestinian cinema production is centered in Jerusalem, with prominent local scenes in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Nablus.

Makram Khoury, Mohammad Bakri, Hiam Abbass, and Amal Murkus emerged as popular faces in Palestinian cinema during the 1970s and 1980s. Areen Omari, Valantina Abu Oqsa, Saleh Bakri, Tawfeek Barhom, and Ashraf Barhom became popular in the mid-1990s, while Leem Lubany and Clara Khoury have gained acclaim since 2000. Popular Palestinian movies include Wedding in Galilee (1987), Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996), Divine Intervention (2002), Paradise Now (2005), The Time That Remains (2009), and Omar (2013).

Documentary filmmaking has played a significant role in capturing and documenting the Palestinian experience. Films like 5 Broken Cameras by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi have received critical acclaim. Palestinian filmmakers often face unique challenges due to the political situation in the region, with many films made under the rules and struggles of occupation. The Palestinian Film Festival, held annually in various cities around the world, showcases Palestinian cinema and provides a platform for Palestinian filmmakers to share their stories.

Sports

Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium at Al-Ram, Jerusalem

Palestine has been participating in the Olympic Games since 1996, with athletes competing in various sports, including athletics, swimming, judo, and taekwondo. Palestinian Olympians proudly represent their nation on the international stage. The country is a member of the International Olympic Committee. In addition to football, basketball, handball, and volleyball are also popular sports in Palestine. The Palestinian Basketball Federation and Palestinian Handball Federation oversee these sports' development and organization.

Association football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the state of Palestine, with the Palestine national football team representing the state in international football and governed by FIFA worldwide. The Palestine Cup is the premier domestic football competition in Palestine. It features teams from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the winner represents Palestine in the AFC Cup. Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, located in Al-Ram in Jerusalem, stands as the largest stadium in Palestine. It serves as the home ground for the national football team. Other notable stadiums include Dora International Stadium in Hebron, Palestine Stadium in Gaza and Nablus Football Stadium in the Nablus.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The Palestinian Declaration of Independence proclaims the "establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem (Al-Quds Ash-Sharif)." Israel exercises de facto control over Jerusalem, but neither state’s claims to Jerusalem are widely recognized by the international community. Ramallah is the administrative capital where government institutions and foreign representative offices are located, while most countries maintain their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv. In Oslo I Accord, few parts of Jerusalem went under control of the Palestinian government, but did not solved overall status of Jerusalem.
  2. ^ a b Before 2023, Gaza City was the largest city in the State of Palestine. Following attacks by Israel, a large number of refugees from Gaza City and elsewhere in the Strip evacuated into the border city of Rafah, effectively making it the most populous city.
  3. ^ a b So far both presidents of the State of Palestine, Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas, were appointed beforehand as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the committee performing the functions of State of Palestine government. See also Leaders of Palestinian institutions.
  4. ^ a b c Israel allows the Palestinian National Authority to execute some functions in the Palestinian territories, depending on the area classification. It maintains minimal interference (retaining control of borders: air, sea beyond internal waters, land) in the Gaza Strip (its interior and Egypt portion of the land border are under Hamas control), and varying degrees of interference elsewhere. See also Israeli-occupied territories.
  5. ^ pronounced [fɪ.las.tˤiːn]
  6. ^ Note that the name Palestine can commonly be interpreted as the entire territory of the former British Mandate, which today also incorporates Israel. The name is also officially used as the short-form reference to the State of Palestine, and this should be distinguished from other homonymous uses for the term including the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the subjects of other proposals for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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Bibliography

Further reading

External links

32°00′N 35°15′E / 32.000°N 35.250°E / 32.000; 35.250