was not long before that the group splintered into various factions,
all of whom believed they knew the best way to achieve liberation for the Palestinians. The most notable of these groups were the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Popular
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC),
and the Fatah. While each
of these factions were independetly controlled, they all remained more-or-less under the umbrella of the PLO.
By 1967, the PLO had decided that their primary goal
was the destruction of the State of Israel. Over the next ten years,
this goal was the primary focus of the massive terrorist campaign by
which their reputation was formed. This terror war caused hundreds of
casualties, on both sides, with very little to show in return for the Palestinian cause.
Therefore, in PLO the PLO made a conscious decision to alter its
focus from based purely on terrorism to one that would include the diplomatic and political
elements necessary for meaningful dialogue.
The PLO's partial-reversal in ideology created
unhappiness among many of its followers who felt that the organization was not finding its mark. This led to the
creation of yet another splinter group called the Rejectionist Front.
It was at this time that Yasser
Arafat and his group, Fatah, took
over the leadership of the PLO.
Things began to change quickly when the PLO gained international recognition from the United
Nations as the primary representative of the Palestinian people. Arafat
deftly manipulated the organization from one perceived by the West as barbaric into one considered a
freedom movement with legitimate claims. Israel, perhaps sensing the growing
sympathy, redoubled its efforts to eliminate the Palestinian threat.
In 1982, the Israel Defense Forces launched the First Lebanon War, sweeping into Beirut and forcing the PLO to flee from its bastion. In a
decision that radical Palestinians resented, Arafat agreed to come to
the bargaining table to discuss peace with Israeli leaders. Little
came of these talks, and soon after dissension within the ranks of the
PLO became more pronounced and some of the moderate leaders were
Perhaps in an attempt to reconcile with these
dissenters, Arafat decided to provide support for the hijacking
of a major cruise ship. The ship that was select was the Achille Lauro
and what would happen next would do more damage to the reputation of
the PLO than anything that had happened previously. Together with
operatives from the PLF,
terrorists seized the vessel and took the entire ship hostage. In a
cowardly and reprehensible act, members of the team shot to death a
wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger named Leon Klinghoffer, then dumped
his body overboard. World response was swift, condemning, and slow to
By 1988, Arafat had taken the diplomatic road one
step further when he not only announced the right of the state of
Israel to exist but renounced PLO terrorism. The perceived commitment
to these ideals caused Israel to finally agree to serious talks with
the PLO. The result of these discussions was that today the
Palestinian people live under partial self-rule and seem on the way to
obtaining the homeland they have yearned for years. In recent years,
Palestinian youths have become disillusioned by what they perceive as
the plodding nature of the PLO in regard to its pursuit of an
independent Palestinian nation. Many of these followers have joined
the either HAMAS or Hizballah.
On September 9, 1993, in letters to Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Norwegian Foreign Minister Holst,
PLO Chairman Arafat committed the PLO to cease all violence and
On September 13, 1993, the Declaration
of Principles between the Israelis and Palestinians was signed in
Washington, DC. Between September 9 and December 31, the PLO factions
loyal to Arafat complied with this commitment except for one, perhaps
two, instances in which the responsible individuals apparently acted
independently. Two groups under the PLO umbrella, the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Hawatmeh faction (DFLP-H),
suspended their participation in the PLO in protest of the agreement
and continued their campaign of violence.