President of the Palestinian Authority Mahomoud Abbas appointed
his first female Palestinian governor last week.
Leila Ghannam, who has risen in the ranks of the Fatah since her high school years, will serve as governor of Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate, one of the 16 governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Born in Deir Dibwan village near Ramallah, Ghannam began to serve in the Fatah
as a student and was quickly elected to its Ramallah council. Later she held a senior position with the organization's security forces, and then served as the welfare minister's head secretary. She also holds a doctorate degree in psychology.
Ghannam is single and without children, and is currently the highest ranking woman in the Fatah. The recent elections held by the organization were disappointing for many women, as none made it to the central committee.
However a number of women were selected to serve on Fatah's revolutionary council, the second in importance, among them Ghannam, Fadwa Barghouti, and a few others.
Ghannam is outraged by any allusion to her sex. "I was appointed to the position because of the president's belief in my abilities, and not because I'm a woman," she told Ynet in an interview.
"It is proof that our leader Abu-Mazen (Abbas) does not differentiate between men and women, and he chooses according to skill."
Though she denies being surprised at the appointment, she admits that perhaps a feminine touch will add something to the position.
"Despite the fact that I will regard the office from the position of the responsibility it carries, and not as a woman, there is no doubt that I can be more sensitive to issues such as women, children, and welfare," she said.
The position of governor carries a great deal of influence in the Palestinian Authority, as the governor is the figure of most seniority in each district. Ghannam's tasks include heading the security forces operating within her jurisdiction and supervision over all municipality activities.
The governor is also responsible for contact with the IDF and its officers, as well as with the Civil Administration. Traditionally, all governors have also supervised the Fatah's military wing in their governorate.
Ghannam in her new office
When asked what she plans to bring to Ramallah, the Palestinian capital, Ghannam answered with a general political statement. "Ramallah is the political and economic capital today, but our eyes are on Jerusalem – it is our eternal capital," she said.
The new governor is also critical of the IDF, which she says continues to "invade" Palestinian cities. She is skeptical of the recent removal of West Bank checkpoints, as part of an Israeli attempt to ease restrictions on the Palestinians.
"I know the territory as a Palestinian and a Fatah operative," she said. "I'm not from outer space, and the easements that the Israelis are talking about are the adding of a checkpoint one day, and on the next day removing it."
However Ghannam realizes she will have to work closely with Israeli officials. "In my past positions as an intelligence officer and others there was no reason to meet with Israelis, but today because of the desire to promote daily business there is no escaping these meetings," she said.
"I hope these things will change and that there will be call for positivity because we all want change and a better life."