The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is formed.
At its first summit meeting in Cairo in 1964, the Arab League initiated the creation of an organization representing the Palestinian people. The Palestinian National Council convened in Jerusalem on 28 May 1964. Concluding this meeting the PLO was founded on 2 June 1964. Its stated goal was the “liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle.
The ideology of the PLO was formulated in the founding year 1964 in the Palestinian National Covenant. The document is a combative anti-Zionist statement dedicated to the “restoration of the Palestinian homeland”. It has no reference to religion. In 1968, the Charter was replaced by a comprehensively revised version.
Until 1993, the only promoted option was armed struggle. From the signing of the Oslo Accords, negotiation and diplomacy became the only official policy. In April 1996, a large number of articles, which were inconsistent with the Oslo Accords, were wholly or partially nullified.
At the core of the PLO’s ideology is the belief that Zionists had unjustly expelled the Palestinians from Palestine and established a Jewish state in place under the pretext of having historic and Jewish ties with Palestine. The PLO demanded that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes. This is expressed in the National Covenant:
Article 2 of the Charter states that ?Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit?, meaning that there is no place for a Jewish state. This article was adapted in 1996 to meet the Oslo Accords.
Article 20 states: ?The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong?. This article was nullified in 1996.
Article 3 reads: ?The Palestinian Arab people possess the legal right to their homeland and have the right to determine their destiny after achieving the liberation of their country in accordance with their wishes and entirely of their own accord and will?.
The PLO has always labelled the Palestinian people as Arabs. This was a natural consequence of the fact that the PLO was an offshoot of the Arab League. It also has a tactical element, as to keep the backing of Arab states. Over the years, the Arab identity remained the stated nature of the Palestinian State. It is a reference to the ?Arab State? envisioned in the UN Partition Plan.
Secularism versus adherence to Islam
The PLO and its dominating faction Fatah are often contrasted to more religious orientated factions like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. All, however, represent a predominant Muslim population. Practically the whole population of the Territories is Muslim, most of them Sunni. Only some 50,000 ca 1% of the 4.6 million Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories are Palestinian Christian.
The National Charter has no reference to religion. Under President Arafat, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority adopted the 2003 Amended Basic Law, which stipulates Islam as the sole official religion in Palestine and the principles of Islamic sharia as a principal source of legislation. The draft Constitution, which never materialized, contains the same provisions. At the time, the Palestine Legislative Council did not include a single Hamas member. The draft Constitution was formulated by the ?Constitutional Committee?, appointed with the approval of the PLO.
PLO versus PA
The 1993-1995 Oslo Accords deliberately detached the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the PLO and the Palestinians in exile by creating a Palestinian Authority for the Territories. A separate parliament and government were established. Mahmoud Abbas was one of the architects of the Oslo Accords.
Although many in the PLO opposed the Oslo Agreements, the Executive Committee and the Central Council approved the Accords. It marked the beginning of the PLO’s decline, as the PA came to replace the PLO as the prime Palestinian political institution. Political factions within the PLO that had opposed the Oslo process were marginalized. Only during the Hamas-led PA Government in 2006-2007, the PLO resurfaced. After Hamas had taken over Gaza in 2007, Abbas issued a decree suspending the PLC and some sections of the Palestinian Basic Law, and appointing Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister.
The PLO managed to overcome the separation by keeping the power in PLO and PA in one hand, upheld by Yasser Arafat. In 2002, Arafat held the functions Chairman of the PLO/Executive Committee and Chairman of Fatah, the dominating faction within the PLO, as well as President of the Palestinian National Authority. He also controlled the Palestinian National Security Forces.