Palestinian Constitution – Draft No. 3

This term describes the third draft of the constitution of the Palestinian state, written under the auspices of the PLO.

Definition

The term Palestinian Constitution – Draft No. 3 (hereinafter “The Third Draft”) refers to the third draft of the Constitution of the Palestinian State, which was written under the auspices of the PLO (05/03) and is designed to enter into force with the establishment of the Palestinian state.

Background

The Third Draft is the most recent Founding Document which comprises the Palestinian Constitutional Structure. As such, it represents the Palestinian view of the constitutional composition for the future Palestinian state. The Third Draft was written by a special commission appointed by the PLO's Central Committee1 and will enter into force with the establishment of the Palestinian state.

The Third Draft was written in the context of the Roadmap (4/03),2 which called for the establishment of a Constitution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian State with Provisional Borders (PSPB) in the 2nd Phase of the Roadmap and before a Permanent Status Agreement. Accordingly, the Third Draft assumes, albeit implicitly, that the borders of the Palestinian state will be provisional and that a number of Outstanding Issues will remain unresolved.

The Third Draft contains 190 articles which are related to different Constitutional subjects, including the division of labor and human rights.

Ratification Process and Changes in the Constitution

The Constitution is to be ratified in three stages:

By the Palestinian National Council (hereinafter PNC) or the Central Committee – both of the PLO;3

Afterwards, by the Representative Council (Legislature of the Palestinian State), by a two-thirds majority;

And finally, through a referendum, which will be held following a decision of the Representative Council of the State (though it is not clear if the referendum will be restricted to residents of the Palestinian state or extend to the entire Palestinian people – See Map of the Palestinian People).

The Constitution may be amended only after it has entered into force – that is to say, after the establishment of a Palestinian State – and with a two-thirds majority of members of the Representative Council.4

Appendix

Historical Background – Various Constitutional Drafts of the Palestinian State

Two main processes of writing Constitution's drafts were conducted in parallel:

Under the auspices of the PLO – alternative drafts were written beginning in 1988;

Under the auspices of the PA the Basic Law, which serves as the provisional constitution of the PA, was to serve as the Founding Document of the Palestinian state.

After the Palestinian Declaration of Independence (Algiers Declaration) (11/88) by Arafat at a conference of the PNC of the PLO, it was decided to convene a conference to discuss the creation of a constitution. Developments proceeded at a sluggish pace until the establishment of the PA following the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (5/94) and the Interim Agreement (9/95).

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) of the PA, which was chosen through elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (1/96), replaced the PLO committee drafting the constitution. In 1997 the council presented the Basic Law as an interim constitution. This document was not approved by Arafat until 2002, and even then not fully implemented.

Since 1999, the Central Committee of the PLO has led a parallel effort to create a constitution in the lead-up to the declaration of independence which was expected to take place at the end of the Interim Period (5/94-99). This committee, headed by Nabil Shaath, presented its first draft in 2001.

In the Bush Vision for the Middle East (6/02) President Bush called for the creation of a new Palestinian constitution. Following the Bush Speech, several revised versions (of the first draft Constitution from 2001) were presented.

After the appointment of Abu Mazen as Prime-Minister (3/03), there was a focused Palestinian effort to use the Basic Law as a basis for a constitution. However, the PNC of the PLO has continued to work on a parallel effort of its draft.

The Third Draft is a product of this effort. The Draft was written during the build-up towards the establishment of the PSPB within the framework of the Second Phase of the Roadmap.


1 The most recent draft was written by a committee appointed by the PLO and headed by PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath. Other Constitutional drafts were written under the sponsorship of the PA – See the attached appendix: “Historical Background: Various Constitutional Drafts of the Palestinian State.”
2 In the Bush Vision for the Middle East (6/02), President Bush included the creation of a new Palestinian constitution as part of his proposal to renew the political process between Israel and the Palestinians.The Roadmap (4/03) of the Quartet, which is based upon Bush’s speech, calls upon the prompt creation of a new Constitution leading to the establishment of a “Palestinian State with Provisional Borders”: "..Palestinians undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood, including drafting a Palestinian constitution, and free, fair and open elections upon the basis of those measures.." (See "Roadmap" (5/03), Phase 1: Ending Terror and Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions).
3 This provision is part of a Constitution that is in the process of being drafted before the establishment of a Palestinian State.
4 See Third Draft, Article 186.
More Sources

Additional Sources

Brown Nathan J., Palestinian Politics after the Oslo Accords, University of California Press, 2003.

Brown Nathan, The Third Draft Constitution for a Palestinian State: Translation and Commentary, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, October 2003.