PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization)

The PLO was created in Jerusalem in 1964, following a decision of the League of Arab States, with the first meeting of the Palestine National Council (PNC) . The first Council, made up of 422 leading Palestinian representatives, adopted the Palestinian National Charter and formally created the PLO, headed by a Palestinian lawyer who had worked for several Arab governments as a diplomat, Ahmed Shuquairy.

The creation of the PLO marked a change in attitude among Palestinians: In the past, they saw Arab unification as a solution to their problem. The failure in 1961 of unification between Egypt and Syria one one hand and the success of the struggle for national liberation in Algeria in 1962 on the other, were decisive factors in their new awareness.

The highest body in the PLO is the PNC which appoints the Executive Committee which handles regular business between sessions. This has remained unchanged since its inception. Several changes have been introduced in the meantime, however, mainly after the 1967 war. Until then, the PLO had been extremely dependent on the Arab states, and many organizations were created in parallel. After the 1967 defeat, and because they had been alone in resisting occupation, they joined the PLO: two of them, the Fatah and the PFLP had as of 1968 one half of the seats in the PNC, and Ahmed Shuquairy resigned. One year later, Yasser Arafat, Fatah leader, was appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO and, in 1971, he became the General Commander of the Palestine Forces.

Recognized as representative of the Palestinian people by all Arab States at their Summit in 1974 (see Arab Summits), the PLO was given observer status at the United Nations the same year and became a full member in its own right of the League of Arab States in 1976. However, this has not prevented some Arab states from creating parallel « PLO »s whenever its policy seemed to distance itself too much from their own. This occurred in 1978, when Iraq spurred the creation in Baghdad of a « Rejection Front » (see Abu Nidal and PFLP-GC), and later in 1983 in Damascus when Syria sponsored the « Palestinian National Salvation Front » (see DFLP), both attempts, however, were destined to fail.

In western Europe, Spain was the first country granting diplomatic status to a PLO representative, followed later by Portugal, Austria, France, Italy and Greece.

Until 1990, the PLO had two main sources of financing: annual contributions from Arab states and a tax varying between 3 and 6% levied on the income of Palestinians. Of all countries, Saudi Arabia was the greatest and most regular contributor. TheIraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and the « active neutrality » adopted by the PLO had as a consequence that the Gulf countries reduced their contributions to nearly nothing hence leading the PLO close to banruptcy. According to some, this would have been the reason why the PLO signed the Oslo Agreements so fast, despite the fact that they were so unbalanced from the Palestinian point of view.

The PLO Executive Committee is made up at present of 18 members, each heading a department. The Political Department (the « Foreign Ministry » of the PLO) is headed by Faruk Qaddumi, who alongside Arafat was one of the founders of the Fatah. However, Faruk Qaddumi did not recognise the process launched in Oslo, and hence did not participate in the foundation of the Palestinian National Authority in the occupied territories.