The Palestinian Authority is a semi-autonomous entity which controls the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Formally, according to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority also controls the Gaza Strip, but in reality it lost control in June 2007 when Hamas' violently took control. Since Yasser Arafat's death, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has headed the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian Authority's status was severely damaged by the Palestinian terrorist campaign (the Al-Aqsa, or second intifada). Since it was unable and unwilling to prevent terrorist attacks from being carried out from its territory, Israel ended cooperation with it and most Palestinian Authority activities came to a standstill. Today the Palestinian Authority security forces maintain internal order and prevent terrorist attacks.
Many countries around the world give the Palestinian Authority some sort of recognition as a political entity, although most of them do not recognize it as a sovereign state. Some of them formalized their diplomatic relations and promoted their representatives to the status of ambassadors. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas recently applied to the UN for membership. On September 23, 2011, he formally appealed to the secretary general of the UN to recognize the state of "Palestine."