History of Palestine Part VII
1982 PLO forced out of Lebanon
In July 1982, the Israeli government decided to implement an “End Solution” on the Palestinian issue. Extensive Israeli military forces invaded Lebanon. As it was later revealed, the purpose was to destroy the PLO’s military structure, capture as many of its leaders and partisans as possible, annex part of Lebanon, and deploy a friendly government in Beirut. Despite being surrounded in Beirut, the Palestinian forces accepted evacuation only after the PLO had been promised the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to protect Palestinian civilians in the country. The subsequent massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Chatila carried out by Israeli-controlled forces showed how little this international protection was worth, yet the PLO managed to reverse what otherwise appeared to be a total defeat. The organization’s headquarters were moved to Tunis, and on a subsequent tour of Europe, Yasser Arafat was welcomed as head of state in a number of countries, including the Vatican.
According to LOCALTIMEZONE, the PLO began discreet negotiations with Israeli leaders who were in favor of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. The invasion of Lebanon led to the formation of small but active peace groups inside Israel itself. They supported a dialogue with the PLO. However, some radical Palestinian groups disagreed with Yasser Arafat’s political line. The organization was divided and its factions repeatedly clashed – sometimes militarily.
After several years of internal strife, the Palestinian National Council – the exile government – met in Algeria in 1987 and succeeded in restoring the PLO’s internal unity.
In December 87, an Israeli military truck drove directly into several Palestinian workers in the Gaza Strip. In protest, the Palestinian businessmen closed their shops and the people walked the streets. The Israelis responded with the escalation of repression. However, unlike previous situations, the Israeli escalation simply meant that even more elders, women and children participated in the demonstrations. The more civil losses there were, the greater the hate, the number of demonstrations, strikes and closed business. The funeral parlors were transformed into open political provocations against the occupying power. This was the beginning of the Intifada – revolt in Arabic.
During the first months of 1988, there was a massive participation of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in strikes organized by the so-called “Unity Management of the People’s Rebellion in the Occupied Territories”. This was the first time Palestinians from the two parts of Palestine politically participated in the same protests.
In July 88, Jordanian King Hussein declared that all economic and political ties to the West Bank population had been severed. From then on, the PLO was the only representative of the people of the area.
At its meeting in Algeria on November 14, 88, the Palestinian National Council proclaimed the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the Israeli- occupied territories in 67 – with Jerusalem as its capital. At the same time, the Council accepted UN Resolutions 181 and 242, which were a de-facto recognition of the State of Israel’s right to exist. Less than 10 days after the declaration, 54 countries had recognized the new state.
Arafat was named president of the new state and was welcomed by the UN General Assembly, which had gathered specifically in Geneva to listen to him – because the United States had refused him admission. The Palestinian leader condemned terrorism, accepted the existence of Israel and called for the deployment of an international force to the occupied territories. Following Arafat’s speech, US President Reagan decided to initiate talks with the PLO. The UN Security Council, at the invitation of the Arab countries, met in Geneva to listen to a report by Arafat on the violence in the occupied territories. The Palestinian leader asked the UN to convene an international peace conference for the Middle East as soon as possible.
1990-91 Support for Iraq in the Gulf War
When the tension between Iraq and Kuwait increased in the mid-1990s, Arafat tried in vain to negotiate between the two countries. When Kuwait was invaded, the Palestinians tried to draw a parallel between the two occupations. Should Iraq comply with UN resolutions and withdraw from Kuwait, Israel should do the same and withdraw from the occupied territories.
When the Iraq-US war broke out, the pro-Iraqi sympathies were clearly expressed in the Palestinian population. However, support for Iraq came at a cost to the PLO extensive financial assistance from the rich Gulf states opposed to Iraq. (See: The Gulf Wars ).