Palestine Liberation Organization

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The Palestine Liberation Organization, commonly known as the PLO, is a Palestinian ethnic nationalist organization dedicated to the establishment of the independent state of Palestine in lands now mostly part of or controlled by Israel.

In the 1970s the Palestine Liberation Organization, commonly known as the PLO, was an umbrella group of 8 organizations headquartered in Damascus and Beirut. Its Palestine Liberation Army consisted of about 12,000 soldiers, led by Yasser Arafat.

The PLO has a nominal legislative body of 300 members, the Palestine National Council (PNC). Actual political power and decisions are controlled by the PLO Executive Committee, made up of 15 people voted in by the PNC. The PLO included Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), and the Palestinian Popular Front.

PLO ideology can be found in its constitution, the Palestinian National Covenant, which was created in 1964. This covenant was amended in 1968; this version is made up of 33 articles. The original intention of the PLO was to destroy the state of Israel, which was called for in the Palestinian National Covenant.

In September 9 1993, Yassir Arafat released an English language press release stating "the PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.... those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist ... are now inappropriate and no longer valid". This statement, however, was not voted on or approved by the PNC. The Arabic version of this press release denies that the covenant is no longer valid. Internal PLO documents still reject Israel's existence. The PNC notes that until the Palestinian National Covenant is officially modified, the old version is still current and valid. Nonetheless, factions within of the PLO and the PA seek peaceful co-existence with Israel, and seek to create a Palestinian state within the West Bank and Gaza.

In 1993 Israeli leaders, such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, tenatively accepted that the PNC has been amended to remove anti-Israel clauses. However, since them PM Netanyahu and others have repudiated this position; they point out that the PNC and the PA never changed the covenant; they charge that the movement to make any changes was a hoax. As of this writing (2001) the PNC still has not undergone any changes; the unmodified version calling for the total destruction of the State of Israel is still used in the PA and is taught in PA schools. 1993 Statement by Israelis

From 1967 to 1977 the PLO sponsored nearly 900 attacks around the world, injuring over 2,400 people and killing over 1,300, mostly civilians, and was widely considered a terrorist organization.

The PLO is unofficially allied with the terrorist organization Hamas. The views of many Palestinian leaders on relations between the PLO and Hamas are available. Some within the PLO and the PA, such as Yassir Arafat, have recently denied that the State of Israel has a right to exist, and that any Peace treaty with Israel is a temporary measure, and should be only be a prelude to the eventual destruction of Israel.

See also Zionism.

Statements made by PLO

Many Israelis point out that many PLO members have made statements conflicting with the official statements of the PLO. Others argue that as with any organization, the PLO has a wide diversity of opinions within it, some more peaceful than others, and that the opinions expressed by some PLO members (even senior members) do not necessarily reflect the organization as a whole. It also must be noted that some Israeli politicians have expressed opposition to the peace process as well.

"Consequently, the P.L.O. undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian covenant." Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the P.L.O. (in the exchange of letters with Israel on 9 September 1993)

A few days later this reversal was issued: "Israel must not demand that the P.L.O. alter its covenant, just as the P.L.O. does not demand that the Jewish nation cancel the Bible." --- Ziad Abu Ziad, senior P.L.O. official (in a speech to the American Jewish Federation, 23 October 1993)

The majority of PLO officials followed suit. "We will not lay down our weapons until complete liberation... Sooner or later we will throw the Zionists into the sea." -- Lt. Col. Munir Maqdah, Commander of P.L.O. forces in Lebanon (Reuters, October 8, 1993)

"We have to accept the deal and wait for a change in the circumstances that could lead to the elimination of Israel." -- Abu el-Aynayn, P.L.O. Chief of Rashidieh refugee camp in Lebanon (U.S. News and World Report, September 27, 1993)

On whether the P.L.O. police force will work with Israel against terrorism:

"The Joint Security Coordination and Cooperation Committee set up under Article II hereunder shall develop a plan to ensure full coordination between the Israeli military forces and the Palestinian police..." --- from the agreement signed by Israel and the P.L.O. in Cairo on 4 May 1994 (paragraph 2a of Annex I to the agreement)

On the other hand many leaders of the PLO refuted all aspects of this treaty. "Anyone who thinks the Palestinian police will try to prevent attacks outside the borders of the autonomous area is making a bitter mistake." --- Sufian Abu Zaida, a leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction in Gaza (Maariv, 25 April 1994)

"If there are those who oppose the agreement with Israel, the gates are open to them to intensify the armed struggle." --- Jibril Rajoub, P.L.O. security chief for Judea and Samaria, during a lecture at Bethlehem University (Yediot Aharonot, 27 May 1994)

On the right of return of Palestinian refugees:

"800,000 Palestinians among those who left after 1967 will come back in the transitional period, which is five years. Those who left in 1948 will come back after the declaration of the Palestinian independent state." --- Nabil Sha'ath, head of the P.L.O. delegation to the talks with Israel in Taba (Al-Hayat, 28 September 1993)

On wanted fugitives taking refuge in Gaza:

"We came to Jericho because with the Palestinian authority here, it is now safe." --- Ziyad Wawi, a member of the P.L.O.'s Black Panthers who is wanted for murder by Israel, on why he and 18 other fugitives have fled to Jericho (Agence France Presse, 14 June 1994)

On why the P.L.O. signed the Cairo agreement with Israel:

"The money is the carrot for signing the peace agreement with Israel. We have signed." --- Hassan Abu Libdah, deputy chairman of the P.L.O.'s Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (The New York Times, 10 June 1994)

Palestinian statehood:

"Gradually, stage by stage, we will reach an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital." --- Feisal Husseini, senior P.L.O. figure in Israel (Beirut Times, 16 September 1993)

The Palestinian flag "will fly over the walls of Jerusalem, the churches of Jerusalem and the mosques of Jerusalem." --- Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the P.L.O. (Jordanian TV, 13 September 1993)

See also Meir Kahane.

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