PA Telephone and Internet Codes

How did the Palestinian Authority get telephone and Internet codes like a country?

Telephone Country Code 970

How did the Palestinian Authority get their own telephone country code, a powerful symbol of independence in the modern world?

As a direct result of the Oslo Accords, Israel gave the newly formed Palestinian Authority (PA) limited autonomy over certain territories. Israel and the PA worked on many technical issues that were intended to help create the infrastructure of a modern state, such as telecommunications. In the spirit of Oslo, Israel was a co-sponsor of International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Resolution 32 of the Plenipotentiary Conference (Kyoto, 1994) on Technical Assistance to the Palestinian Authority for the Development of Telecommunications. The ITU is an international treaty organization that is a ‘specialized agency’ of the UN with its own governing body.


Even though the PA did not follow through on the most important commitments of the peace process -- involving Israel's security -- the momentum of these agreements carried the PA forward toward statehood. Many anti-Israel countries in fact recognize "Palestine" as a state and the Palestinian Authority has been given observer status at the United Nations. In 1998, the ITU, at their Plenipotentiary Conference in Minneapolis, passed Resolution 99, "Status of Palestine in ITU", recognizing the Palestinian Authority and allowing them to have Observer status as a non-voting participant for the purposes of the ITU.

In January 1999, over Israeli objections, the ITU reserved the use of ITU-T Recommendation E.164 code 970 for the Palestinian Authority, the preliminary step toward permanent assignment. Previously, calls to areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority were routed through Israel (code 972) but now the PA would control these calls and derive the revenue from them. A joint Palestinian-Israeli telecommunications committee, which was established following the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles in 1993, developed the details of implementation of the change. Country code 970 will be permanently assigned to the PA by the ITU at a later date. Such permanent assignment typically happens when the service is ready for public, commercial operations, but in the case of the Palestinian Authority there may be political aspects to the decision as well.

Israel objected to the change because, under the Interim Agreement of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority was specifically prohibited from taking on the trappings of a national state until agreement on final status was reached bilaterally with Israel. But the UN and others continually undermined that agreement by cooperating with the Palestinian Authority as if it were a state. The reservation of a telephone country code (and an Internet top level domain, discussed below) are examples of this trend.

The operating telephone carriers in member countries of the ITU (essentially the whole world) will conform to the new arrangements (although not required to do so). The Palestinian Authority had their carrier Paltel acquire international grade switches and they made all technical preparations, starting in early 1999. Egypt was the first country to establish service direct to 970 in May 1999. By now, most carriers have made the change. AT&T, Sprint, MCI, BT and other international telephone companies, use the 970 code into areas where it has been implemented by the PA.

The official name of the entity associated with the 970 country code is "Palestinian Authority". However, due to sloppy practices, many of the operating carriers refer to 970 as "Palestine". One AT&T website found in January 2003 has a listing for "Israel including Palestine, 970" and also "Israel, 972". Pro-Palestinian Arab organizations go even further, e.g. "Palestine National Authority International dialing code: 970 / 972" thereby including Israel under the misnamed "Palestinian National Authority".

The assignment of the country code to particular areas is administrative and not necessarily geographic. For example, Ariel and Kiryat Arba (Hebron) phones are connected via country code 972 even though they are geographically in the "West Bank".

Internet Domain .PS

In parallel to the acquisition of a telephone country code, the Palestinian Authority has received the Internet top level domain .ps for their use.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international body, chartered as a non-profit organization under Swiss law, that sets standards for everything from screw threads to photographic film, using technical committees from member countries. Generally, this is a very valuable service -- world commerce and technological development depend on these standards.

ISO Standard 3166 assigns short codes to countries to be used for postal and other purposes (e.g. US, UK, IL etc.) Following the political developments that saw the Palestinian Authority gain observer status in the United Nations, ISO reserved the code PS for a possible future Palestinian state. On October 1, 1999, the Maintenance Agency published update V-2 to International standard ISO 3166-1. This update announces that the code has actually been assigned. ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-3 was published on August 20, 2002 adding a country header for "Palestinian Territory, Occupied", a rather political description. The official UN French name associated with the new country code is "Territoire palestinien occup?".

In March 2000, following the designation in the ISO 3166 Standard of "PS" as the two-letter code, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body responsible for Internet top level domain assignments, allocated the corresponding ".ps" to the Palestinian Authority. This allowed the Palestinian Authority to set up Internet name assignments within their unique top level domain ".ps". The Palestinian Authority has been using .ps for their own governmental web sites and for other web sites and email addresses.

In ICANN documents, the .ps code is identified as belonging to the "Palestinian Territories", yet another description that further confuses the actual, legal status.

In complete non-conformity, the UN Statistics Division has its own codes. Under the name "Occupied Palestinian Territory" they assign numerical code 275 and ISO Alpha-3 code PSE.


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