DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine)

Left-wing Palestinian organisation led by its founder Nayef Hawatmeh. Its headquarters are in Damascus but part of its leadership has, since 1996, moved to the Palestinian autonomous territories. The organisation stems from the left wing of the PFLP of George Habash from which Nayef Hawatmah split in February 1969, creating the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) which later became the DFLP in August 1974.

Although the DFLP adopted an attitude similar to that of the PFLP in 1969-70 in Jordan, at the political level the differences were greater. As of 1969, the PDFLP denounced jingoist slogans such as « drive the Jews into the sea » and began a dialogue with the Israeli extreme left the following year. Finally in 1973 it became, together with Fatah and the Palestinian communists, one of the most adamant advocates of a Palestinian state and of a « two states solution » as a provisional step. On March 22, 1974, Hawatmah gave an interview to the Israeli paper Yedioth Aharonoth saying he believed it would be useful if all factions of Israeli society became aware of the Arab revolutionary position in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He called for dialogue between progressive forces from both sides.

In 1977 the DFLP took a distance from Fatah as it reproached it of compromising too much with Arab reactionaries. Hawatmah tried to find a midway position between Arafat and his opponents. He refused to join the Palestinian dissidents in Damascus after the war in Lebanon in 1982.

In spite of its support for a « two states solution », the DFLP refused to attend the Madrid conference in 1991.

The signature of the Oslo agreement in 1993 marginalised the DFLP like most PLO factions. Despite the DFLP’s opposition to the Oslo process, it has not carried out any attacks or terrorist actions to hinder the process until its recent breakdown in September 2000.

When Israel allowed the return of most members of the PNC in the Palestinian Territories in 1996, the DFLP moved part of its leadership to the area. Meanwhile, the DFLP’s number two, Yasser Abed Rabbo, was leaving the Front to create the FIDA (reversed Arabic acronym for the Palestinian Democratic Union). Abbed Rabbo is now the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Information.

A reconciliation of the DFLP – together the PFLP – with Arafat took place in Cairo in August 1999. The Fatah-DFLP statement published at this occasion defines red lines regarding the status of Jerusalem, the refugees and their right to return, and an independent Palestinian state. Two major DFLP demands were also accepted: the PLO’s role as highest authority in charge of the final status negociations and a referendum before the signature of the final deal with Israel. Arafat had invited a member of the DFLP leadership to be part of the larger Palestinian delegation at the Camp David negotiations of Summer 2000.

Nayef Hawatmeh, DFLP’s leader attracted a lot of attention to himself when he shook hands with the Israeli President, Ezer Weizmann at the funeral of King Hussein in February 1999 drawing strong criticism from his Palestinian and Arab peers.

In August 2001, the DFLP launched an attack on the Israeli army, the first since the Madrid conference, killing 3 Israeli soldiers.

On September 11, an anonymous caller told Abu Dhabi Television that the FDLP was behind the massive terrorist attacks against US targets in New York and Washington, but the organisation immediately denied any involvement and condemned the terrorist actions.