Past Failures Of The Palestinian Liberation Organization
Essay, Research Paper
PAST FAILURES OF THE PALESTINIAN LIBERATION ORGANIZATION
In 1948 when the country of Israel was created, Palestinian Arabs lost control of all the lands which they possessed. Although many organizations were immediately formed to regain the lost lands, it was not until 1964 when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was created, that there was a single voice to be “the sole representative of the Palestinian people”. (Nassar. pg. 40)
Currently headed by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) had never in its existence achieved the success which it sought. What had prevented the P.L.O. from establishing a free and independent Palestinian state was their inconsistent relationship with the United States of America, their failure in the past to condemn the use of international terrorist tactics and finally the internal feuding among the various groups who make up the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It is these three factors that limited the success of the P.L.O.
The P.L.O. had not received recognition from Western countries until the early 1980’s. In fact it was not until 1982 that Canada formerly recognized the P.L.O. as being the representative of all Palestinian Arabs. (Rafael pg. 159) However, it was the relationship which the P.L.O. had with the United States, one of the world s superpowers that had greatly limited its success. United States foreign policy stipulated that the P.L.O. would not be recognized until the group accepted the existence of the state of Israel. Resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council played a significant role in shaping this policy. Resolution 242 calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and weaponry from the Occupied territory as well as Palestinian acceptance of the right of Israel to “live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries..[reaffirming the decision] to achieve a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.” (Nassar pg. 152) It was not until 1974 that the general assembly issued resolution 3236 which recognized Palestinians as having national as well as individual rights. (Nassar pg 155) However, resolutions enacted by the Security Council take the place of those drafted by the general assembly. Since the P.L.O. refused to acknowledge Israel, a United States ally, Americans refused to meet with Arafat or acknowledge the existence of the P.L.O. until their decision was reversed. “American leaders while occasionally mentioning the territorial integrity of all states in the region did nothing to pressure Israel out of the Occupied Territories.” (Nassar pg. 155) While the United States recognized Palestinian self rule, it encompassed only Palestinians living in the Occupied Territory and entailed local autonomy rather than independence. (Nassar pg. 156)
The United States finally began to show signs of easing their stance on the P.L.O. and its caused in the early years of the Carter Administration. President Carter recognized that if peace was to be established in the Middle East it could not occur without the inclusion of the P.L.O. Within months of taking office Carter stated in a public speech “there has to be a homeland provided for Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many years.” (Rafael pg. 169). It was Carter, who in July of 1977, suggested that a “homeland” be created out of the Occupied Territory and Jordan. Carter s plan was rejected by the P.L.O. since it implied indirect recognition of Israel. However, Carter was insistent on P.L.O. representation at the October 1978 peace talks and reaffirmed his earlier statement that a “homeland” needed to be provided for the Palestinian people.
Despite public criticism from both sides, dialogue between the two did occasionally exist. “During the Lebanese war (1975 – 1976) P.L.O. guerillas assisted in the evacuation of 276 Americans and Europeans from Lebanon.” (Nassar pg. 121) Egypt s Foreign Minister and the Palestinian news agency Wafa had even stated that direct contact had actually taken place between the two sides.
Nevertheless, once Egyptian President Anwar Sadatt, acting as a representative of the P.L.O., had broke away from the Peace conference, Carter s statements to a turn. “I have never favoured an independent Palestinian state and I still don t favour one. We will have no contact with the P.L.O. until it takes action to recognize the rights of Israel to exist. (Laquer pg. 608) However, Carter had previously known that the P.L.O. would at that time never recognized the existence of Israel.
One of the main problems behind the lack of previous acceptance of the P.L.O. is their immediate association with terrorist activities. Although the President of the P.L.O. currently has a no tolerance policy towards terrorism, this was not always the case. Bombings, hi-jacking and shootings were in the P.L.O. s earlier existence directed at civilian targets by Palestinians claiming their actions were political statements. In 1956 Palestinian guerillas began intense attacks after the Suez War and attacks became increasingly extreme in 1965 when “a number of Palestinian guerillas were taking part.” (Hiro pg 319) It was the loss of all Palestinian land that provoked the various sub-groups making up the P.L.O. to turn their attentions to the rest of the world. It was their belief that terrorism was the only way to regain all Palestinian lands since it would focus attention on the problem of the Palestinian people. Otherwise, without the use of terrorist activities this problem would be ignored or disregarded.
The P.L.O. sub-group, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P.F.L.P) , carried out the first Palestinian hi-jacking in July of 1968. (Cutterback pg. 79) the P.F.L.P hi-jacked an El Al civilian plane and redirected its flight to plan to Algeria. The P.F.L.P had requested and ultimately received the release of sixteen Arab prisoners from Israel. After two more attacks such as these, the Israeli government implemented tighter measures on Israeli planes to prevent further hi-jackings from taking place.
The most famous terrorist attack was organized by the Black September group, a break off of the Al-Fatah and also a member of the P.L.O. At the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich, Germany eight Black September terrorists kidnaped eleven Israeli athletes. “All athletes were killed, and five of the terrorists, the other three being captured in West Germany, were later released in the face of another hi-jacking operation.” (Cutterback pg. 82) It is estimated that 500 million people world wide witnessed the event. (Cutterback pg. 82) While the majority were astonished, there were many who heard of the P.L.O. for the first time and possibly even sympathized with their cause.
Terrorist actions such as these caused problems for the P.L.O. They were criticized by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one of the main supporters, for their role in aiming at civilian targets. The Reagan-Bush administration repeatedly stated that they did not wish to deal with terrorist organizations, which was what the P.L.O. was viewed as.
After renouncing it no longer tolerated terrorist actions (with the exception of Israel) the P.L.O. stated it would punish those responsible. Palestinian groups disregarded the statement by Arafat and unsuccessfully hi-jacked a British Airways plane in 1974. True to his word 28 Palestinians were arrested and sentenced to 10 – 15 years imprisonment. (Cutterback pg. 80) The imprisonment of the 28 Palestinians helped improve the path of communication with the United States government as did Arafat s speech to the United Nations in 1974 where he stated:
Today I come bearing and olive branch and a freedom fighter s gun. Do not
let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat do not let the olive branch
fall from my hand. (El-Rayyes pg. 504)
Events such as these helped in showing the P.L.O. was not as treacherous as the world believed it to be.
By using terrorist attacks, through a great portion of its existence the P.L.O. prevented the achievement of their ultimate goal of obtaining an autonomous Palestinian state. The past use of such activities was a contributing factor which limited the success of the P.L.O.
Since its creation the P.L.O. has been plagued by internal feuding, the final factor which has contributed to its limited success. Since the P.L.O. is composed of many different organizations it is only natural that each sub-group possesses a different view of the Palestinian problem; some organization are Marxists who have previously received financial support form the former Soviet Union, while others are hard core guerilla groups who received backing from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. (Hiro pg. 154).
In 1964 when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was formed with Ahmed Shukeri as its leader, it was already unstable. Shukeri did not advocate the idea of revolutionary means to achieve its goal. But, the Al-Fatah who were not yet members of the P.L.O., believed that violence was the only means by which to liberate Palestine. However, of the independent Arab states only Algeria volunteered to provide military training to the Al-Fatah. Tension grew between the two groups as the “six day war” between Arab and Israel continued. Palestinians lost the war and all land was lost to Israel. The loss of the West Bank and Gaza Strip weakened Sukeiri s position within the P.L.O. allowing for other groups to take control of the organizations reigns. By 1973 Yasser Arafat had been elected leader and his organization, the Al-Fatah numbered 15,000 guerillas and became the strongest group within the P.L.O. (Messenger pg. 47) When the Al-Fatah, who are the more realistic minded group of the P.L.O., implied in 1973 during the early stages of the Yam Kippur war that it may recognize Israel the P.F.L.P left the organization only to return four years later. (Cutterback pg. 71)
Yasser Arafat and the P.L.O. faced their biggest problem in 1983. It was at that time that King Hussein, the Jordanian leader, met with Arafat to discuss Reagan s peace plan to link lost Palestinian lands to Jordan. However, an agreement could not be reached on how Palestinians would be represented at the peace talks. The P.L.O. has been previously weakened in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and in 1993 the year in which President Reagan s peace plan was introduced, a split had occurred between the two major divisions of the P.L.O. The P.F.L.P was strongly against any settlement negotiations with Israel, unlike Arafat who supported the idea. With Syrian help the P.F.L.P attacked loyal Al-Fatah members in Lebanon. Fighting increased substantiality in October and mid-November of 1983 and Arafat, along with his supporters were evacuated from Tripoli, Lebanon. Arafat was left to try to fix his battered reputation and try to rebuild the P.L.O.
It was not until April of 1987 that Arafat won the hearts of many Palestinians and his position as leader of the Palestinian people was overwhelmingly approved, even by the P.F.L.P, one of Arafat s major opponents. Now with solid leadership the liberation of Palestinian lands had a greater chance of occurring. Internal feuding among the P.L.O. s various organizations had been a factor to the limited success of the P.L.O. which almost destroyed the organization and its cause.
To try and determine a single contributing factor to the P.L.O. s limited success would be very difficult. However, the P.L.O. s relationship with the United States, its failure in the past to condemn terrorist tactics and internal feuding, have all contributed to the organization s limited success. Although its activities brought the Palestinian issue to be addressed the organization has done little to help alleviate any suffrage sustained by the Palestinian people. Its previous tactics had shaded the issue and their desire for a sperate and autonomous state.
Since Arafat has denounced terrorist activities and the P.L.O. s commitment to resolving the crisis through the 1993-1994 peace talks between the Arabs and Israel, its acceptance in the world has greatly increased. If however, the P.L.O. had stopped internal feuding earlier than it did and attempted to renegotiate with those around them, it is quite possible Palestinians would have already received the homeland which they so desire.
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