The Plo

The PLO 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: 1.the Executive Committee, a decision-making body 2.the Central Committee, an advisory body 3.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. Palestine is the ancient name of a Middle Eastern country situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

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Its size has varied greatly throughout its history and its exact borders are even now in dispute. Its location at the junction of trade routes linking three continents has meant that it was a melting pot for religious and cultural influences. It has also, unfortunately, been a natural battleground for the region’s powerful states and thus subject to domination by them, the first of these being Egypt in the third millennium BC. When Egyptian power began to wane in the 14th century BC, the country was again invaded: this time by Hebrews, who were a Semitic tribe from Mesopotamia, and by Philistines (from whom the country took its name), an Indo-European people. The West Bank The West Bank is a term used to mean the disputed lands located west of the Jordan River between Israel and Jordan. Its area is about 5900 sq km (2278 sq mi) and it holds many sites of religious importance to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The largest cities of the West Bank are Hebron (Arabic: El Khalil) and Nablus. Part of biblical Samaria and Judaea, the West Bank was a part of the British Mandate for Palestine from 1920-1948. It was formally annexed by Jordan in 1950 — an act that was not recognized by the Arab League, the United Nations or the United States. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the area came under Israeli control. The Gaza Strip The Gaza Strip is a narrow area of desert land along the western Mediterranean Sea. It is about 42km (26 miles) long and 6.5 to 8km (4 to 5 miles) wide.

It too, like the West Bank, was a part of the British Mandate from 1917 to 1948. Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip from 1948 until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (except for a brief period of Israeli occupation in 1956-57) when it passed to Israeli control. The Gaza Strip is densely populated — an estimate in 1993 gave the figure as 800,000 — with more than 99% of its population being stateless Palestinian Arabs. The majority are refugees from Israel who have lived under extremely difficult conditions in refugee camps since 1948. The flimsy economy is based upon agriculture, livestock, fishing and some small industry.

Poverty and unemployment are widespread and the success of the 1993 peace accord between the Palestinians and Israel depends in no small way upon whether economic progress for the people of the Gaza Strip is an outgrowth of the accord. The intifada The intifada is a revolt by Palestinian Arabs against Israeli military occupation of lands taken in the 1967 Arab- Israeli War. It began in late 1987 in the Gaza Strip and soon spread to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It involved throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, strikes and business boycotts. Neither the Israeli government nor the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were prepared for the movement. The cause of the intifada is undoubtedly the frustration growing out of the many diplomatic failures to address the grievances of the Palestinian Arabs.

Israeli response to the movement drew worldwide criticism for its harshness, and the intifada in fact compelled the Israeli government to re-evaluate Palestinian nationalism as well as the depth of Palestinian discontent, anger, and utter frustration. In September 1993, the PLO and Israel signed an agreement on Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho. The last Israeli troops withdrew on 18 May 1994.