Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)

An umbrella political entity founded in 1964 to liberate Palestine, implement the Palestinians’ right of return, and achieve national self-determination. Founded on June 2, 1964 in Jerusalem at the behest of the Arab League, the PLO was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” in 1974. The PLO became a nonmember state, Palestine, in 2012 and is signatory to the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestinians. The PLO’s legislature, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), includes more than 700 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT) and in the diaspora. It elects the PLO’s Central Council of 124 people. The PNC or the Central Council can elect the 18-member Executive Committee, which in turn elects the PLO chairman. Yasser Arafat served as PLO chairman from 1964 until his death in 2004, when he was succeeded by the current chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.

After the PLO signed the Oslo Accords that created the Palestinian Authority, an interim government in the oPT, much of the PLO leadership moved from its base in Tunis to the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat’s faction Fatah had always dominated the PLO, but smaller factions that rejected the unfolding agreements with Israel remained in exile and were marginalized. Instead of being a ragtag group in exile seeking international legitimacy, the PLO and its role was largely subsumed by the offices of the Palestinian Authority, which was funded by the international donor community and took center stage. Within the oPT, however, non-PLO member Hamas became stronger, leading the opposition to the two-state solution and finally rivaling Fatah by defeating it in 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections. Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas center upon the Islamist movement’s demand to join the PLO and share leadership, which Fatah has rejected to date, and Hamas’ repudiation of the Oslo process, including an end to armed resistance.