Although the existence of Palestinian governorates (muhafazat) pre-dates the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the signing of the Oslo Accords, they have since been incorporated into its administration structure in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, there are 16 governorates: 11 in the West Bank (Nablus, Qalqilya, Tubas, Salfit, Tulkarm, Jenin, Jericho and the Jordan Valley, Ramallah and al-Bireh, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jerusalem) and five in the Gaza Strip (North Gaza, Gaza, Deir al-Balah, Khan Yunis and Rafah).

Governors have responsibility for the local police force and the supervision of all government agencies in the governorate. They are appointed by the president and fall under the direct supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. Governors do not operate under any specific legal framework but are regulated by several presidential decrees, most notably Decree 22 of 2003.

Since the Gaza-West Bank split in 2007, Hamas has refused to recognise the governors appointed by president Mahmoud Abbas on the basis that they lack a constitutional basis.

The origins of the governorates can be traced back to the era of Ottoman rule in Palestine. They have gone through several configurations since then. The administrative system was re-organised during the British mandate by the United Kingdom. In 1967, the Israeli administration divided the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip into eight districts. In 1995, the newly created Palestinian Authority created the current 16 governorates.

In an effort to further decentralise and to improve the accountability of local government vis-à-vis the citizens, the PA established governorate councils that would be chaired by the governors. These councils include as members representatives from the Ministry of Local Government, local government units, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the private sector and civil society organisations in order to lead and guide regional strategic development plans.