History of Palestine: The PLO
History of Palestine: The PLO Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010
Functioning as a Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 as a political body representing the Palestinians in their efforts to reclaim their country from the Israelis.
Originally an umbrella organization of refugee and military groups, it was ultimately joined by professional, labour and student associations and also by some individuals.
The purpose of the PLO is to help the Palestinians "to recover their usurped homes" and to replace Israel with a secular Palestinian state. To that end, it has been responsible for commando acts both in Israel and in other countries.
The PLO works through three parts: the Executive Committee, a decision-making body the Central Committee, an advisory body the Palestine National Council which is generally viewed as an assembly of the Palestinian people Yasser Arafat has been the head of the PLO since 1968.
In 1974 at an Arab summit in Rabat, Morocco, the PLO was recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people". Subsequent to this, Arafat addressed the United Nations where the organization was given official observer status.
In 1970 the PLO commandos fought a short but bloody war with the Jordanian army after which they were expelled from that country and settled in Lebanon. Little by little, they became a state within a state, and thus contributed to the disintegration of Lebanon after 1975.
The aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was to disperse some 12,000 PLO members to Syria and other Arab countries. Those loyal to Arafat made their headquarters in Tunis, where an Israeli bombing raid in 1985 severely damaged their headquarters and other buildings.