Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s control over the Palestinian political and judicial systems is a topic of daily discussion among Palestinians. Indeed, following his October 28, 2022 decree no. 17, ordering the establishment of the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies and Authorities (SCJBA) that he would head, many criticized his increasingly authoritarian rule. But decree no. 17 has many precedents; since 2007, Abbas has issued some 400 decrees entrenching his authority over the judiciary.

In consolidating the domination of the executive authority over the judicial system, Abbas’s decrees contribute to shielding him and the ruling elite from accountability. To be sure, Abbas’s rule is restricted to the West Bank. Following the 2006 Palestinian political divide between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas lost control over Gaza, and in 2007, the High Judicial Council (HJC) was split between the two occupied territories.

This policy brief thus examines how Abbas has managed to tighten his grip over the Palestinian judicial system in the West Bank, and examines the ramifications of these actions on Palestinian civil society, including the nonprofit sector, unions, and social movements. It ends with suggestions for ways to confront Abbas’s authoritarian rule and reform the status quo.