This day in history: Arafat made PLO leader

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was officially formed at an Arab summit, called for by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1964. The PLO was initially headed by Ahmed el-Shukeiri.

After the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel in 1967, the organization’s headquarters were moved to Jordan. On 3 February, 1969, Yasser Arafat was officially made PLO president.

Arafat’s relationship with the Hashemite regime in Jordan, however, deteriorated in 1970, forcing him to move the organization’s headquarters again–this time to Lebanon.

When Palestinians in Lebanon became involved in the Lebanese Civil War in 1982, Arafat was forced to leave the country. PLO headquarters were then moved–for the third time–to Tunisia, also home at the time to the Arab League. (The league had transferred its headquarters from Cairo following Arab objections to Egypt’s signing of the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1979).

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, PLO leaders threw their support behind Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in a move that adversely affected the roughly 400,000 Palestinians resident in Kuwait at the time. As a result, the organization lost the support of the Arab Gulf States.

This, perhaps, may be one of the reasons for the PLO’s subsequent acceptance of UN Resolution 242, which formally recognized the state of Israel. Not long afterward, in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, the organization agreed to form a "transitional" Palestinian government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in return for the PLO’s acknowledgment of Israel as a state.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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