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General Country Information

Although not an independent state according to standards of international law, Palestine is comprised of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza administered by the Palestinian National Authority since 1994. Its conflict with the state of Israel, created after the end of the Second World War, has dominated politics in the Middle East for nearly six decades. Apart from the conflict with Israel, there is an internal conflict between the Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas.

The current president, Mahmoud Abbas, won presidential elections in 2005 to replace Yasser Arafat who had died in 2004. Parliamentary elections in 2006 were won by Hamas, but prime minister Haniyeh subsequently had to face an international boycott. The ensuing power struggle between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah faction eventually led Abbas to dismiss Haniyeh and appoint Salam Fayyad as the new prime minister. Hamas denounced Abbas’ step as illegal and currently more or less controls the Gaza strip while the Abbas’ Fatah faction is in charge of the West Bank.

The population is estimated at 3.7 million in total, of which 75% is Muslim. The literacy rate is estimated at almost 92%. More general information is available at BBC Country Profile and at Wikipedia in both English and Arabic. Official information can be found at the website of the Palestinian Legislative Council Service in Arabic, and the Ministry of Information.

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