The Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO is undoubtedly one of the best known terrorist organizations in the world. Accordingly, the organization is led by perhaps the best known individual in the modern history of international terrorism; Yasser Arafat. The Palestinian Liberation Oranization was created in 1964 during a meeting known as the Palestinian Congress, in an effort to become the voice for the very large number of Palestinians living in refugee camps in South Lebanon. It was not long before the PLO began to splinter into various factions, all of whom believed they knew the best way to achieve the liberation of Palestine. Most notable of these groups are the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine”, Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and al-Fatah. Each of these factions have remained more-or-less under the umbrella of the parent PLO and never ventured too far from the fold.
By 1967 the PLO had mandated that their primary goal was the destruction of the state of Israel. For the next ten years, this goal was the primary focus of the massive terrorist campaign from which their reputation was formed. This guerrilla war cost untold hundreds of casualties on both sides with very little to show in return. Therefore, in 1974 the PLO made a conscious decision to alter its focus from a purely terrorist nature into one that would include political-diplomatic elements, necessary for any meaningful dialogue. This created more unhappiness amongst some followers who felt that the PLO, while striking blows, was not truly making progress towards its mark. This led to the creation of yet another splinter group called the Rejectionist Front. It was at this time that Yassir Arafat and his group al-Fatah took over the leadership role.
Things began to change quickly for Arafat, such as the all-important recognition of the PLO by the United Nations and by the Arab League at the Rabat Conference. Arafat deftly manipulated the organization from one perceived by the Western public as barbaric, into an organization slowly being considered a movement with legitimate claims. In 1982, the Israeli army chased Arafat and the PLO guerrillas all the way into Lebanon and bottled them up in Beirut. In a decision that radical Palestinians resented, Arafat agreed to come to the bargaining table, after a UN cease-fire allowed him to relocate to Tripoli, Libya. Peace talks with Israel ensued. Little came of these talks, and soon afterward, dissension within the ranks of the PLO became more pronounced and some of the moderate leaders were assassinated.
Yassir Arafat decided to turn his efforts to hijacking. He provided 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, and condemning.
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 feinted a renouncement of terrorism as a means to accomplish a diplomatic end. 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 seemed on the way to obtaining the homeland they have yearned to have for years. In recent years however, Palestinian youths have become disillusioned by what they perceive as the plodding nature of the Peace Process in regard to their pursuit of an independent Palestinian nation. Many of these followers have joined either the Hamas or Hezbollah terrorist organizations. On September 9, 1993, in documents written to Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Norwegian Foreign Minister Holst, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat committed the PLO to cease all violence and terrorism.
On September 13, 1993, the Declaration of Principles between the Israelis and Palestinians was signed in Washington, DC. by Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitshak Rabin. Today, Yassir Arafat and the PLO purport to participate in a tentative peace with the Israeli government in an effort to stabilize tensions and establish a mutually acceptable resolution to the decades-old conflict. However, Arafat has routinely stated in the Arab press that the entire peace process on the Palestinian side was merely a pre-meditated scheme similar to the ancient strategies implemented by Suleiman. The inference meant that the PLO was only using diplomacy as a means to gain through political means a base for attaining what the organization previously had failed to acquire through terror and outright confrontation.
The Intifada, or uprising which was planned and launched by various factions of the PLO, after the rejection of the Clinton Plan under the Oslo Peace Process at Camp David, by Yasser Arafat reflects the return by the PLO to a more militaristic approach to liberating the Holy Land from the state of Israel. Recently, Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership have begun to coordinate their terrorist-uprising efforts with the various radical elements supported by Iran, Syria, and Iraq.