Arabic: munazzamat ‘at-tahrīr filistīnīya
The organization that has worked as the official representative for the Palestinian people, and is now the leading force of Palestine.
PLO is an umbrella organization, made up of a handful of other organizations, like al-Fatah, as-Saiqa, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, organizations that are very different in many fields, but they all share the same goal of an independent Palestinian state.
But a large part of the individual members connected to the PLO, are members directly connected to the organization. Earlier the planned Palestinian state was intended to be on the very same ground where Israel was, while they now define the new Palestinian state inside the borders of the areas occupied by Israel since 1967, the West Bank, Gaza strip, plus East Jerusalem.
The PLO is made up of three bodies, the Executive Committee, exercising central control; the Central Committee, the council; and the Palestine National Council, which was earlier the Palestinian people’s parliament in exile.
PLO has performed both military and political actions. Military, the organization has been involved in actions against both Israeli troops and against innocent civilians, not only Israelis but people of many nationalities. Responsibility for these actions has been denied by PLO though, but this is strongly disputed by international observers.
Politically, the organization has been only partly democratic, dominated as it has been by one person for almost all its history: Yassir Arafat. Yet, this political structure has proven to be effective enough to be implemented as a structure for parliamentarism of the new Palestinian state, called Palestinian National Authority for the transitory period from 1994 to 2000 or longer.
1964 May: Founded in Jerusalem (the part belonging to Jordan), by refugee groups and local Palestinians, and with the aid of Arab nations in the shape of the Arab League.
1968: Yassir Arafat, of al-Fatah, becomes chairman of the PLO.
1970: Battle between the fadayeen (commandos) of PLO and the Jordanian army.
1971: PLO is expelled from Jordan, and their body and many Palestinians move to Lebanon.
1974: PLO is proclaimed the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by Arab states at the Rabat Conference. UN recognizes PLO as “the representative of the Palestinian people.”
1975: The civil war of Lebanon starts, in which PLO contributes by destabilizing the politics of Lebanon.
1982: Invasion of Lebanon by Israel, PLO is once again driven out of their headquarters. About 12,000 members flees to other Arab countries. Arafat moves together with his followers to Borj Cedria, just outside Tunis, Tunisia, aided by the US government.
1983: Turmoil in PLO. From this time on the organization is strongly divided into two factions after disagreements with Arafat.
1985 October: Israeli jets attack Tunisia, bombing the PLO headquarters, but fails to kill Arafat who is the presumed target.
1988 July: With Jordan giving up its claim on the West Bank in favor of the Palestinians, as represented by PLO, room is given to declare a Palestinian state.
November 15: The Palestinian National Council declares under a meeting in Algiers, Algeria the establishment of a Palestinian state. At the same time, they accept the UN resolution 242, which in reality is a recognition of Israel.
December: USA starts diplomatic talks with PLO.
1989 April: Arafat is declared president of Palestine.
1991: With PLO supporting Iraq during the Gulf War, the organization is set back with regard to its popularity among Western governments, as well as in Western public opinion.
July: PLO is driven out of southern Lebanon by the Lebanese army that is backed by Syria.
1993 January: Israel’s ban on personal contacts with PLO is lifted.
September 13: The Oslo Agreement is signed in Washington between Israel and PLO, where power over Gaza and the West Bank is to be transferred to an elected body of the Palestinian people. With this accord, much of PLO’s authority was restored, yet it was strongly opposed by several Palestinian groups.
1994 May: Israel withdraws from most of the Gaza Strip and Jericho, and the Palestinian state under the temporary name of Palestinian National Authority is a reality.
1995 September 24: The so-called Oslo 2 Agreement is concluded, and signed in Washington DC, USA, 4 days later. This agreement was both a follow-up and a partly renegotiation of the initial Oslo Agreement from 2 years earlier. Many observers regard this agreement as less advantageous for the Palestinians than the initial.
1996 January 20: Elections in Palestine among non-Israeli residents, for a national council and a president of the council. Yassir Arafat gets 88% of the ballots in the presidential election. His sympathizers win about 50 of the 88 seats in the national council.
April 24: The charter of PLO from 1964 is changed so that the destruction of Israel no longer is the goal of PLO. 75% of the Palestinian National Council voted in favor of this, 8% against it.