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Prior to the British Mandate, Ottoman Palestine was made up of three Sanjaks, or sub-provinces, each ruled by a Mutasarrif (provincial governor). Of these, the Sanjak of Acre and that of Balqa’, or Nablus, fell within the larger Vilayet (province) of Beirut, while the largest, Jerusalem -owing to its religious and historical status- was independent, with its governor responsible directly to the Sultan. The British administered Palestine through a series of 16 sub-districts, each responsible to the High Commissioner in the capital, Jerusalem. These sub-districts were adjusted once, in the late 1930s, but remained operational throughout the Mandate. Following the 1947-1949 War, Jordan administered the West Bank according to similar set of sub-districts, placing the villages surrounding its 11 principal towns under local governors responding to Amman via Jerusalem, which remained the Palestinian capital and was also declared the ‘second capital’ of Jordan. Israel’s occupation in 1967 saw these reasonably organic sub-divisions replaced by a streamlined system of military ruled through seven large governorates, which denied the existence of Palestinian Jerusalem both as a city and as Palestine’s central administrative sub-division. In 1995, the Palestinian Authority adopted new administrative sub-divisions, returning to boundaries more in keeping both with historical fact and local Palestinian socio-economic and cultural factors, forming an 11 governorate system in the West Bank and dividing, for the first time, the populous Gaza Strip into five governorates. Each PA governorate was placed under a local authority which administered both Area A and B through branches of ‘national’ ministerial and welfare services, except in the re-designated Jerusalem governorate, where the lack of an Area A presence limited PA governmental activity.

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