What is the background of Yasser Arafat and the PLO?
October 10, 1959 was the day when a group of twenty Palestinians held a meeting in Kuwait and formed Fatah, the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine. Yasser Arafat was made the leader of Fatah and after the establishment of Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964, he was made the leader and chairman of PLO, a position he held till his death.
Following a meeting of the Arab League led by Ahmed Shuqeiri, Palestinian Authority came into existence in May 1964. Another meeting was held in Jerusalem where the 400+ Palestinian members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization where they laid out the structure and working of Palestinian National Council, Palestinian Liberation Army and other such organizations. After becoming an independent organization, PLO acquired more of a central role than other factions of Fatah and started gaining international support. In the 1980s, several contending groups sprang out of the PLO but the organization remained the most important Palestinian organization. Under the authority of PLO, a number of organizations were created for improving the living conditions of Palestinians by providing tem healthcare and education. Moreover, a quasi-governmental structure was formed to handle the tasks in the area of information, finance, foreign relations and military operations. In December 1998, Arafat publicly renounced terrorism on behalf of the PLO. The United States considered the statement favorable that also bounded other factions like PFLP, PLF and Al Fatah. However, it also proclaimed that time that the constituent groups of the PLO holds differing views. The fact is that the PLO was made up of groups having a similar aim – to liberate Palestine and achieve an independent state. The governing body of the PLO is Palestinian National Council (PNC), its parliament. The parliament is made up of representatives belonging to the PLO as well as members from outside. The real authority which governs the working of the organization is a 15-member Executive Committee that holds meetings, functioning very much like a board of directors. Arafat gained a lot of popularity as a leader of the PLO and representative for the Palestinians cause. Up till 2004, he was holding authority in four areas. Apart from being the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, he was also the head of Fatah, a major faction of the PLO. He was also the president of the Palestinian Authority and of the interim government formed on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the State of Palestine as declared by the PLO in 1988, also had Arafat as its president, an authority of him that is usually forgotten. In the 1996 elections, the first popularly elected government was chosen by the Palestinians, giving birth to an 88-member Council. A cabinet of 20 ministers overseeing 23 ministries was also established. Chairman of PA, Yasser Arafat, continued to dominate the governmental affairs and took major decisions whereas most of the senior governmental positions were held by his devotees or the loyal individuals of Fatah faction of the PLO.