The Palestine Liberation Organization: Tactics, Strategies and Options Towards the Geneva Conference

VOL. 4


No. 4
P. 65
The Palestine Liberation Organization: Tactics, Strategies and Options Towards the Geneva Conference


SINCE its inception in 1964 no greater threat and/or challenge has confronted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) than the Geneva peace conference. The threat to the PLO lies in the fact that the existing framework of reference for Geneva is Security Council Resolution 242 (November 1967) and supplementary resolutions 338 and 339 (October 1974). Within the terms of reference suggested by Security Council Resolution 242 Palestinian representation is subsumed under the category of a "just settlement of the refugee question" -the so-called humanitarian formula. In effect the PLO as a political organization representing the needs and aspirations of Palestinian statehood has no right of membership of the Geneva peace conference; matters relating to the Palestinians therefore can only be discussed by the parties (i.e., the Arab states and Israel) most directly concerned with the "just settlement" of the problem.

The challenge to the PLO derives from the fact that since 1967 the organization has grown and matured into a vital revolutionary force in the Arab world. This has been confirmed in the resolutions of the Algiers and Rabat summits (1973-74) which recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in the world at large and, in particular, on the East and West Banks of the River Jordan. Implied, at least, in these resolutions is tacit recognition of a Palestinian entity - or state - including at least the territories on the West Bank of the Jordan - territories at present under Israeli military occupation. UN General Assembly resolutions (October-November 1974) further underline international recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people with, among other things, "the right to national independence and sovereignty" including "the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted." [1]

The nature of the threat and/or challenge to the PLO lies in the fact that the Palestinian question is being forced into the international power balance of 1967, particularly by the United States, while all the indications within the Arab and wider international system suggest wider recognition and support for Palestinian self-determination. The threat lies in the clock being turned back to 1967 to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict within the then existing frame- work of states. The challenge lies in reading the movements and tendencies within the international system in such a way as to maximize the Palestinian strategic objective - the creation of a secular democratic state in Palestine. The problem, however, for PLO tacticians at this critical moment is how to maximize options within the existing international power balance which will not lead to the liquidation or stultification of the Palestinian revolutionary struggle to liberate Palestine. Or, in other words, how to maximize international support (i.e., diplomatic, political) without losing freedom to pursue the revolutionary struggle. And since none of the major powers has said anything about the liquidation of Israel, how should the PLO react if invited to attend Geneva and negotiate on the future of Palestine with Israel?

The aim of this paper is to examine the current tactics, strategies and options open to the PLO as a revolutionary movement seeking entry into the international system with the aim of "possessing" an existing member state (i.e., Israel) in fulfillment of its revolutionary strategy. Since there is a real danger of a study of this kind dating very quickly if the sole line of focus is a detailed discussion of the events preceding the convening of the conference, I have chosen instead to try to make some general analytical statements about the performance of national liberation movements within the international system. Bearing in mind our focus on the PLO it seems relevant to pose the following questions; (1) how does a national liberation movement perform within the international system; (2) what are the scope and limitations of its policy options; how can it best maximize support for its revolutionary goals without losing its freedom or autonomy to pursue these revolutionary goals? From both a pragmatic and hypothetical standpoint the background to the Geneva peace conference offers an excellent medium for analysing the behaviour of a national liberation movement seeking to utilize political means of resolving a revolutionary struggle.


A. Destabilizing Force

On the face of it, national liberation movements, however just their cause, do not make very attractive contenders for membership of the club of states (i.e., the international system). Revolutionary slogans usually invite states to adopt the precedent of rejecting the candidature of one member - often a proven member -for the candidature of the national liberation movement. National liberation movements often seek to establish the principle that the right to statehood depends on the inherent ability of states to maintain fair and equitable policies towards all communities; that injustice, racial oppression, forced occupation of territory, are unfit qualities for statehood. Unlike the international system which operates on the principle of contractually derived external relations between states, national liberation movements seek to introduce the dimension that domestic suitability is a vital component in international recognition and acceptability. The behaviour of national liberation movements in this respect might be likened to a "maverick" seeking to trans- form existing norms of contractually established relations in the international system in order to correspond with its own particular interests. As perceived from the vantage point of states, national liberation movements represent potentially destabilizing forces within the international system - forces which invite upheaval for the dubious reward(s) of future association with the new client, should the revolutionary goals be attained.

B. International Support/Modification of Revolutionary Freedom

Often lacking secure power potentials or territorial bases - frequently relying on alliances which alter with changes in the international power balance-national liberation movements cannot hope to secure international support for their cause without compensatory losses in freedom to pursue the goals of the revolutionary military struggle. [2] For in a world of nation states with intricate alliance patterns, with vastly differing perceptions of morality and justice - perceptions often based on self-interest and/or political opportunism - national liberation movements maximizing support must seek to transcend international diversities and tendencies in their appeal for recognition. On the other hand, the national liberation movement which pursues its goals without consideration for the interests of the wider international community may lead to the situation where it maximizes its freedom to act in isolation - a tactical maneuver which could lead to its annihilation unless it has the military capabilities (i.e., a Hanoi) to withstand the onslaught of the "bandit" state (the state to be overthrown).

There would appear to be grounds for assuming that the level of inter- national support accorded to a national liberation movement varies inversely with its level of tactical freedom. Indeed the liberation movement which tries to maximize international support often attests to a low level of politico-military capability to pursue the revolution in the face of the "bandit" state. And while international support is a most valuable asset attesting to the validity of the revolutionary struggle, its utilization in terms of the final solution often poses serious tactical problems. The "bandit" state, on the other hand, utilizing membership of the club of states, exploiting existing contractual relations with allies, appealing on grounds of maintaining system equilibrium in the region especially if the region is a danger spot in terms of global peace - can do much to frustrate and dilute levels of international support accorded to the national liberation movement.

A national liberation movement which seeks to maximize international support must of tactical necessity moderate its freedom to pursue strategic goals. Ideally planning should seek to maximize both alternatives (i.e., international support and organizational freedom) within the framework of the revolutionary struggle. Such tactical tight-rope walking might lead to compromise solutions, however, which are pale imitations of the final revolutionary goals. And while these tactics might best maximize the options of the national liberation movement within a limited time perspective, they might do little to assuage reaction within the national liberation movement to indecisive policies. Indeed, the predictable reaction would be a loss of domestic political consensus and perhaps, in the less ideologically oriented movements, secessionist tendencies. Thus for national liberation movements there exists in pursuance of their revolutionary strategies a basic assumption of policy planning:

That maximization of international support leads to an inverse decline in tactical freedom. That political consensus relates to the ability of the organization to maximize revolutionary freedom in pursuance of the final strategic goals. (The need to harmonize these perspectives relates more to organizations with low levels of military power.)

Indeed a tantalizing proposition is suggested that as the military potentiality of a liberation organization grows its reliance on international support diminishes. Conversely, entry into the international system in pursuit of wide international support is a form of tacit admittance as to the low level of military capability. There would at least appear to be a dialectical relationship between the political and military aspects of the revolution in this context.

C. Tactical Options within Differing International Power Systems

Are there certain types of international systems which are more or less conducive to national liberation movements seeking legitimate political recognition ? Theoretically it might be argued that the greater the degree of system polarization, the greater the likelihood or unlikelihood of substantive political support for a national liberation movement. For example, the fairly rigid bipolar (i.e., US-USSR) power balance (c. 1946-70) militated against the success of national liberation movements in sensitive areas vital to the global interests of the superpowers. While on the one hand the Soviet Union often found itself ideologically in sympathy with many Afro-Asian and Latin American liberation movements - often, as in the case of Vietnam, providing massive amounts of military and technical assistance and political support - countervailing US opposition often led to a period of stalemate, unless the local liberation movement seized the initiative to pursue its own revolutionary strategy. The case of the Vietnamese NLF is notable in this respect - though by no means typical. Even then it is indicative that the success of the Vietnamese liberation struggle occurred during the moment of the decline in the rigid international power balance of the 1950's and 1960's - a decline marked by growing US-USSR detente and the rise of other global centres of power (i.e., China, Japan, the EEC bloc, Arab oil bloc, etc).

As the international system - often mirroring the local or regional political system - moves away from bipolar to multipolar and loose balance of power orientations, tactical options for increasing wider international recognition and support might be thought to increase. National liberation movements might appeal beyond the potentially restricting lines of ideological polarity. Appeals based on the justice of the cause on such proven issues as racism, neocolonialism, loss of territory, dispossession of an entire people, oppressive military domination, are more likely to be accepted on their strict merit.

Indeed third world states or states seeking to play the role of peace mediators and the like in international relations might well take up the crusading cause of the national liberation movement. Conceivably states might even compete for the hand of friendship of the national liberation movement; while others offer support to destabilize the region for calculated political objectives. The simple fact remains, however, that diffused support, typical of multipolar and balance of power international systems is less decisive and/or coordinated than the bipolar power balance so far as the national liberation movement is concerned. But while the bipolar system frequently leads to stalemate, regardless of the support proffered by one of the superpowers, the multipolar and balance of power systems permit a greater degree of tactical flexibility with, however, less likelihood of decisive international action to destabilize the international system to the advantage of the national liberation movement. Indeed with multivarious state interests impinging upon and reacting to the cause of the national liberation movement, we might well perceive moves for compromise employing recognition at the lowest common level. Thus to a revolutionary organization seeking complete transformation of the "bandit" state, diffused international support, while useful from a public relations standpoint might lead to no other positive or tangible conclusions save the fact that the power of the gun speaks louder in the context of revolutionary struggle than rows of nations queuing up to vote for self-determination. Yet if the latter observation seems a logical conclusion to the foregoing argument, the fact remains that such thinking is only valid in an ivory tower remote from the current realities of international politics. National liberation movements, like states, cannot ignore the international system - and in particular the regional political system in which they "naturally" exist. Complete revolutionary freedom to pursue strategic goals is a theoretical impossibility. Revolutionary freedom is a consequence of the degree of interaction between the national liberation movement and its regional and wider international levels of support. Hence the continuing and pressing problem for the tactician of the national liberation movement is the need to maintain maximum flexibility of policy options without, on the one hand, being forced into a manacle (i.e., settlement) to suit the diverse interests of the international system and, on the other hand, being completely isolated (i.e., devoid of international support through low image rating, etc.) militarily and politically, thereby enabling the "bandit" state to strangle the revolutionary movement. But for the national liberation movement the problem remains of how to strike the optimum balance (i.e., support/freedom) to facilitate the strategic goals of the revolution. There are no clear guidelines since the optimum balance must be gauged from (1) the level of revolutionary freedom or struggle and (2)the response of the environment-two elements of constant change in relation to the enemy's level of counter-revolutionary action.

Still the basic assumptions associated with the support/freedom syndrome at least provide a framework for tactical analysis. Let us now consider the validity and utility of some of the above assumptions in the light of the PLO's revolutionary experiences leading up to the reconvening of the Geneva conference.


A. More Support than Freedom, 1964-1967

Most scholars would attest to the "organic" relationship between the Palestinian and Arab national liberation movements. [3] Such a relationship derives in the main from the circumstances surrounding the loss of Palestine (1948) and the subsequent dispossession of the Palestinian people (1948-49). As an entity Palestine ceased to exist though the memory lived on to be subsumed in the wider Arab nationalist movement of the 1950's-60's. The consequence of this was the appearance of an Arab personality through which Palestinians strove for the liberation and social transformation of the Arab nation. The road to the liberation of Palestine was seen to lie through the total liberation of the Arab nation from colonialism, imperialism and Zionism. Palestinians as such played an active part in Arab nationalist parties such as the Ba'th, the Arab Nationalist Movement, the Arab Socialist Union and the like.

Yet with the failure of Arab unionist movements of the 1950's-60's - the declining influence and introspection of nationalist parties like the Ba'th (i.e., Syria and Iraq) and the growing plight of Palestinian refugees in the camps- Palestinian intellectuals (many of bourgeois origin) began to feel the need for a separate though "organically" related liberation movement. The liberation of Palestine was presented as a vital first step in the total strategy of Arab national regeneration. Social transformation of the Arab world was seen, at least by the moderate founding fathers of the PLO, to be of secondary importance. The basic objective of the PLO was the national regeneration of the Palestinian people - a vital necessity in view of their second-class status throughout the Arab world.

From its perception of the organic relationship with the Arab liberation movement the PLO derived its tactical and/or strategic goals. Until the defeat of the Arab armies in the Six Day War (June 1967) this amounted in fact to total reliance on the Arab states to further the cause of the Palestinian people. Yet sponsored at its birth by the Arab states (1964), dependent upon them for finance, military assistance, operational bases, political and diplomatic support, the PLO was from its inception a hapless victim of its Arab environment. In many respects regulation of Palestinian revolutionary objectives coincided with specific Arab state strategies regarding peace or war with Israel. To permit the PLO maximum freedom to pursue its revolutionary objectives might pre-empt total war with Israel. Thus tactical regulation - and in some instances attempts to control the PLO from within - were justified as part of the wider strategic plan to liberate the Arab nation from imperialism, colonialism and Zionism. [4]

While Arab state support had the effect of undermining Palestinian revolutionary freedom (c. 1964-67), the regional and international power balance of the mid-1960's was also inconducive to the independent development of the PLO. The progressive-conservative split in the Arab world might be likened to a microcosm of the larger bipolar configuration of the cold war period. Rigid ideological polarity severely checked PLO policy options within the wider Arab world. In view of its revolutionary objectives-often tinted with populist sentiments - the PLO from its inception found itself more in sympathy with the progressive states (i.e., Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Algeria) than with the conservative bloc (i.e., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Libya until 1969). Such a power configuration severely limited PLO options [5] (i.e., recruitment of Palestinians, utilization of operational bases, etc.) within the conservative bloc since Shuqairy and his lieutenants were often seen as the agents of either Damascus or Cairo. Indeed the fear that the PLO might become a vehicle of militant Arab nationalism effectively curbed enthusiasm for recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. [6] Thus thrown back on the frontline Arab progressive states with its revolutionary policies in chains, the PLO as an organization ossified in terms of its mass appeal while political rhetoric was its only compensating outlet.

B. Freedom to Destroy Itself, 1967-70

The accidents of history often occur at the most unpredictable moments. Coherent policy may become incoherent strategy while unimaginable goals become coherent strategy. The Six Day War, for example, destroyed Palestinian illusions about Arab state military potential in the liberation of Palestine. While certainly the PLO could not cut itself adrift from its Arab environment, policy changes of this period gradually led to the organization acquiring a greater degree of freedom in the pursuit of its revolutionary goals. The changing balance of power in the region assisted the process of transition. Defeated in battle, their military strategies ruined and discredited, Arab states had few valid options for sustaining the conflict with Israel save the military potential of the PLO and the emerging fedayeen groups.

Israel's occupation of substantial Arab territories, including the remaining portion of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, permitted new and challenging options for military operations deep inside enemy territory, in areas of large concentrations of Palestinians. Perceptible changes in the balance of power, the muting of the progressive-conservative rift, growing involvement of the conservative oil-rich states with the frontline progressive states in the conflict with Israel, enabled the PLO to maximize its tactical options. But while the multipolar configuration (c. 1967-70) maximized organizational freedom to move more easily from state to state in pursuit of economic, political and military assistance - to utilize bases in frontline states close to enemy territories - it also had unsuspected dangers for the PLO. For freedom to devise and initiate revolutionary policies was rather the consequence of Arab state weakness in the wake of the Six Day War.

Equally significant and interrelated developments of this period (1967-70) were moves generated within Egypt and Jordan for a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel. Nasser's acceptance of Security Council Resolution 242 (November 1967) implied that the Arabs were at least willing to let Israel live in the region as a sovereign independent state provided she withdrew from all lands taken in the Six Day War. The Palestinian question meanwhile was relegated to and described under the heading of a "just settlement of the refugee question."

In fact the leading Arab state was prepared to solve the Palestinian question within Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or Israel (a most unlikely possibility), in re- turn for peace. While certainly Nasser reserved the right to resume the military struggle, implying acceptance of Resolution 242 on tactical grounds, the injection of the peace option within the existing Arab-Israeli power structure implied a virtual sell-out or liquidation of the revolutionary goals of the PLO. In many ways the formulation of the new revolutionary goal (1969) -the secular democratic state of Palestine [7] - provided new tactical options for countering peace on the basis of Resolution 242, or of King Hussein's peace plans for the reincorporation of the West Bank into the Kingdom of Jordan.

Yet even the tactical flexibility of the secular democratic state, however appealing, humanitarian and just, could not obviate the fact that the climate which enabled the PLO to grow organizationally and spread its options over many centres, also possessed inherent dangers for the movement. The imposition of Resolution 242 through superpower agreement acted to drive a wedge between the frontline states on lines of coordinated military strategy. Syria and Iraq adopted an uncompromising stand towards any peaceful accommodation with Israel on the existing lines of settlement. Jordan and Egypt inclined towards non-military options. True, by the late 1960's these divisions were often muted and unclear - yet the intention of the major Arab states to consider recognition of Israel, with the possibility that others would have no alter- native but to follow, presented the PLO with an increasingly shaky base from which to operate. This became evident in 1969-70 when the frontline states (including Iraq), partially recovering their military potentialities began to impose limitations on the freedom of PLO and fedayeen groups within their territories. Control of movement, coordination of military strategies, restrictions on the carrying of guns in urban areas were applied with varying degrees of severity. However, they held the message that Arab states, however much they might agree with and support the Palestinian revolutionary struggle, also had specific local and regional interests. This was not at all clear to the impassioned revolutionaries of the late 1960's.

The rapid increase in popularity and membership (1968-70), while pushing the PLO onto the centre of the stage, acted further to destabilize the operational centres of the movement. Competing ideological tendencies, and the lack of an articulate and unified military and political leadership, undermined any coherent and planned strategy.

The sudden polarization of the frontline Arab states in July 1970, following Egypt's and Jordan's acceptance (in principle) of US Secretary of State Rogers' peace plan, precipitated the PLO's first major calamity. Politically isolated over the frontline Arab states-especially in Amman, the operational headquarters of the PLO-the prudent line of action might have been tactical, low-key coexistence, particularly in Egypt and Jordan. However, left-wing tendencies (PFLP, PDFLP) with ideas of total Arab revolution (completely unrealistic in view of the PLO's low military and political capabilities) pushed King Hussein into military confrontation with the guerrilla movement. President Nasser, anxious to maintain momentum for peace with Jordan and Israel (August-September 1970), adopted a low-key mediatory effort on behalf of the PLO. Syrian and Iraqi military assistance was blunted by US-Israeli warnings about intervention in the Jordanian Civil War. Caught in the Jordanian manacle - isolated from its support bases in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt - the PLO was virtually annihilated by the Jordanian Army on the pretext of maintaining the security and sovereignty of the Hashemite regime.

In the first and second phases of the PLO's existence (1964-67 and 1967-70) we have witnessed two interesting and significant characteristics regarding its relationship with its natural environment. In the first phase the movement had little organizational freedom to pursue its revolutionary goals. Support amounted to rigid regulation of the movement. Under such circumstances the movement ossified and all but died by the outbreak of the Six Day War. In the second phase of its existence the new climate generated by the defeat of the Arab states permitted the movement to grow rapidly with a high level of organizational autonomy. Yet as we have seen, revolutionary freedom - idealism - call it what you like, was essentially incompatible with (1) the maintenance of Arab state sovereignty and (2) flexible options (as in the case of Egypt) for peace or war with Israel. In both phases the PLO suffered severe setbacks.

C. Revolutionary Freedom within the Bounds of Arab State Sovereignty, 1970-1975

Do the accidents of history control the destiny of man? If such a question seems overly philosophical or theological, the fact remains that the Six Day War and the legacy of the Jordanian civil war changed the environment for the PLO in ways unfathomable before the events. As the Six Day War pushed the PLO into the mainstream of inter-Arab politics - and to its own "perdition" in 1970 - so the legacy of the Jordanian civil war led to far-reaching organizational reforms and the precipitation of the movement onto the main stage of the international arena. Of course, men shape events, and in the case of the PLO this was particularly evident in the new activist leadership which entered the movement in the late 1960's. [8]

The period 1970-75 is important because it illustrates the phase of growing maturity of the PLO. We might say that it had learnt its lesson the hard way through previous experience. This phase was typified by (1) organizational introspection and emphasis on unity; [9] (2) an infinitely more cautious approach to revolutionary strategy and tactics and to inter-Arab state and national interests. The assumption that all Arabs are Palestinians - a belief conditioning strategy before 1970 -was buried in the brutal realities of the Jordanian civil war.

In its inter-Arab relations the memory of the Jordanian civil war served as a sobering lesson on intemperate policies. Revolutionary freedom to secure strategic goals was seen more clearly to represent the sum of Arab state tolerance or commitment to the Palestine cause. Or, inversely freedom to initiate strategic goals was seen to be commensurate with the nature and level of support for the fedayeen, a level of sophistication absent in the previous two phases of the movement (1964-70). Indeed the delicate balance between Arab state support and the PLO's pursuance of its revolutionary strategy (i.e., freedom) was a constant factor in determining tactical options during this period. Nor was this the only factor in the equation. The somewhat loose and often unstable political consensus of the PLO had to be taken into consideration in the making and execution of revolutionary tactics and strategy. For example, in devising policy the PLO Executive Committee had to bear in mind constantly (1) the level of Arab state tolerance and (2) the degree of acceptance among the rank and file members and guerrilla groups within the movement. For while the initiation of bold, courageous policies in the struggle with Israel might win general approval within the movement, the predictable reaction of the Arab states in the face of a massive Israeli counter-attack might lead to adverse consequences.

While a theoretical analysis of the scope and limitations of the movement undoubtedly influenced policy planning, day-to-day events (i.e., the minor accidents of history) frequently necessitated immediate, often ad hoc decisions by the leadership. This was most evident in Lebanon (1969-75). Following the defeat of the fedayeen at Ajloun and Jerash in Jordan (July 1971) the PLO moved its headquarters to Lebanon. In many respects Lebanon, being the weakest of the "frontline" Arab states, proved an ideal setting for guerrilla operations into the occupied territories. With assured if somewhat regulated support from Syria - a country frequently at odds with Beirut - the PLO had a fall-back ally to safeguard its interests in Lebanon. Yet the inevitable Israeli reaction to fedayeen raids staged from Lebanon brought into relief the whole problem of revolutionary freedom and Arab state sovereignty. The issue was further complicated since antithetical confessional groups and factions in Lebanon involved the PLO, and the fedayeen, in domestic confessional conflicts. The consequence of this policy, still very much an issue, led to the movement being restricted (i.e., the Cairo Agreement of November 1969) by the military authorities on the frontiers with Israel, and by time and energy wasted in resolving endless wrangles between the Phalangists and the fedayeen. The ever present danger of civil war in Lebanon involving the PLO led, how- ever, in the period (1970-75), to greater levels of inter-Arab mediation to quell the situation. The outcome of this was hardly conducive to the revolutionary struggle, since compromise formulae of transient value did little to resolve the dilemma associated with the level of freedom which the Lebanon could or would accord to a para-military force within its territory. The Lebanese "no victor-no vanquished" formula - an excuse for immobilism - severely retarded fedayeen military operations while the relatively open and free society permitted a profusion of Palestine research centres, cultural institutions and the like to flourish. Through Beirut the Palestine cause has been distributed to the world.

Unlike the turbulent nature of its relations with the Lebanon the PLO has generally adopted a much lower profile in Syrian and Egyptian domestic affairs. In the main this resulted from the greater degree of state-imposed authority through well developed political organizations like the Ba'th and Arab Socialist Union. Through Sa'iqa, the Palestinian resistance wing of the Ba'th party, the Syrian government has had close access to and some control over PLO decision making. Regulation of the Palestine Liberation Army, coordination of fedayeen activities, stipulated uses of frontline bases, represent but a few areas of imposed state control. Of course, perceived from another standpoint Syrian state control at least permitted the PLO to survive and perfect its tactical options and equip its forces within the confines of Ba'thist revolutionary strategy, which also sought the liberation of Palestine.

In Egypt the PLO had equally limited freedom to maneuver. Sadat was generally apprehensive of the PLO's revolutionary strategy since it added one further complication to any overall negotiated peace settlement with Israel. From 1972 therefore Sadat tried to encourage the PLO to form a provisional government in exile in the hope that it would (1) institutionalize the nature of legitimate authority; (2) provide an authority from which the Palestinians could "negotiate" with Israel and (3) reduce the level of direct Syrian control over the PLO - control which might lead to any rejection of peace options with Israel.

In many respects there are interesting comparisons in Egyptian and Syrian regulative support for the PLO. Syria, in effect, held the PLO in "moth balls" for the utilization of people's war or the war of destiny long sought by the Ba'th. Egypt regulated its support in order to lead the Palestinians into more flexible policies and solutions involving war and peace.

From the standpoint of the PLO differing strategic perspectives were noted in Cairo and Damascus. And while the PLO had few doubts about the limitation of revolutionary freedom in these capitals there were few valid options from which to choose. The Syrian connection, for example, was vital for the preservation of its influence in the Lebanon. To withdraw to Iraq would have taken the movement further away from the occupied territories while, at the same time, leading to a deterioration of relations with Syria, in view of the rival Ba'th government in Iraq. The PLO thus tolerated imposed limitations in Cairo and Damascus while trying to direct its attention to the consolidation of the eastern military front with Israel - a move more befitting PLO objectives.

Through Cairo and Damascus the PLO attempted to lever King Hussein into acceptance of the Cairo and Amman agreements (September-October 1970) providing for the use of bases in Jordan for operations in the occupied territories. In the latter half of 1972, Egypt in concert with its developing ally Saudi Arabia tried to mediate between Jordan and the PLO. Jordan, however, re- fused to sacrifice its sovereignty for PLO operational freedom in the occupied territories. In fact the rift between the PLO and Jordan acted, as it were, to drive a wedge into the Arab eastern military front (Syria, Jordan, Iraq).

This became evident during 1973 when Syria and Egypt perfected plans for the October War. For Sadat, the consolidation of the eastern military front included Amman of strategic necessity. Damascus also moved (though more reluctantly) out of strategic interests to bring King Hussein into the Arab eastern front. The PLO in many respects proved an embarrassment to Damascus in the critical months before the October War. To maintain strict military coordination with the Egyptian army Damascus was forced to remove the fedayeen from their operational bases on the Golan and close the PLO radio station at Dera'a, in order to maximize the moment of surprise attack on the Sinai and Golan fronts. Thus in the month before the war Cairo and Damascus cemented diplomatic relations with King Hussein while efforts to extract guarantees for the return of the PLO to Jordan diminished in intensity as the day of the combined attack (October 6) appeared. And while King Hussein refused to commit his military potential on the Jordan front the need to involve him in planning was more vital to Egyptian and Syrian military strategy than Arafat and the PLO. In this respect Arafat was only told of plans for war one week before October 6: scarcely enough time to organize his forces in the occupied territories.

The pre- and post-October War phases for the PLO in terms of available options hardly seem on the surface comparable. When one contemplates Yasser Arafat's misery over Jordan in 1970-71 and the standing ovation given to him at the UN Palestine session (November 1974) one is tempted to ask: Why the sudden transformation? Nor is this question simply academic, since in the event of the reconvening of the Geneva conference later this year, the PLO leadership might be forced to negotiate on the future of the Palestinian people on the strength of perceptible support in the Arab and wider international system. Is this the time to capitalize on international support through diplomatic means? Is the move not too premature; can the PLO rely on the "power of the gun" to reinforce its diplomatic initiatives? Let us analyse the negotiating positions of the major actors in the Geneva conference and from these plot options open to the PLO.

D. Strategic Limitations in the Restricted Revolutionary Environment

While the October War upset the balance of power in the region, moves to convene the Geneva conference in pursuit of peaceful solutions (1973-75) tended to limit the PLO's options to pursue the revolutionary struggle. The cease-fire (October 22, 1973), troop disengagements on the Sinai and Golan fronts (January and May 1974) and the presence of United Nations Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF) acted, as it were, to seal off the frontier to fedayeen actions, leaving Lebanon as the one remaining base - however shaky -from which to maintain the struggle outside the occupied territories.

Egypt's orientation towards the United States in the hope of levering Israel into withdrawing from all Arab territories taken in the Six Day War and recognizing the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian people" generally failed to convince the PLO of the sincerity of President Sadat. For implied in Egypt's negotiating position is the fact of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign independent state. The PLO feels that Sadat is literally selling out Arab interests, forgetting the twenty-seven years of struggle to regain Palestine. Sadat's position is based on what are described as the realities of the situation: however much we may dislike Israel there is little that the Arabs can do at this moment to remove her. For revolutionaries in the PLO, this amounts to little more than defeatism. Hence relations (1974-75) have been very strained between the parties.

Syria has been less convinced of the advantages of a US connection and fearful of Egypto-Israeli deals mediated through US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Syria's fear of being militarily isolated has led to compensating demands for the swift reconvening of the Geneva conference - a position supported by the Soviet Union. With Jordan waiting in the wings to be called to represent the Palestinians at Geneva, and fears of Kissinger driving a wedge between the frontline Arab states, Syria and the PLO moved together in March 1975 to form a united military and political command. And while in theory such a move provided the PLO with some guarantees against complete isolation should Egypt negotiate an agreement with Israel, its options for tactical maneuvering were diminishing. When Syria and Egypt in company with Saudi Arabia subsequently moved to coordinate Arab strategy (April) following the breakdown of the Kissinger mission, the decision to go to Geneva was more decisive. Despite some ambivalence, Syria would seem to have come round to the point of tacit "acceptance" of Israel in return for major political concessions. [10] For the PLO this meant having to choose between severing relations with or cleaving to Damascus in the hope that something tangible might be negotiated for the PLO at Geneva. Isolation was not a very palatable alternative in view of the strained relations with the Lebanese authorities.


A. The United States and Israel: The Palestinian Question

The current attitude of the US on the Palestine question represents a tradition since 1948 of sweeping the issue under the table. The influence of Jewish- Israeli-Zionist lobbies close to the White House, within the Congress and through the media, goes a long way to explaining the close, often unthinking, and over emotive association with Israel. The cold war, heightened by the entry of the Soviet Union to the Middle East in 1955, further served Zionist interests since Israel became - unofficially at least - the crucial pivot of American foreign policy at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Hence Western security and defense interests coincided with Zionist aspirations of containing, undermining and/or removing the Palestinians from the whole of Palestine.

Between 1967-75 slight changes of emphasis, however, occurred in US government thinking on the Palestinians; in 1967 they were described as "refugees"; in 1970 Joseph Sisco (then assistant secretary of state for Middle Eastern affairs) declared that any settlement on the Middle East must take into consideration the "rights" of the Palestinian people. The Brezhnev- Nixon communique in 1973 referred succinctly to the "legitimate interests" of the Palestinian people. While the US was prepared to concede that the Palestinians "existed" and that they had "interests" or "rights" and that a settlement should include them, it has repeatedly insisted that the Palestine question is a "humanitarian" rather than a "national" problem. Therefore the US rejected the UN self-determination resolution on Palestine (November 1974). US Secretary of State Kissinger further reinforced this position in the shuttle diplomacy (1974-75) by refusing to talk to PLO leaders.

For the Israeli government the PLO is essentially a non-starter in any peace negotiations in the Middle East, Geneva, the UN or elsewhere. And while Israel now admits to the "existence" of the Palestinian people, born of eight years of military administration of the occupied territories, it has refused to consider a "national" solution for the Palestinians. In Israel the PLO's "secular democratic state" is rejected as a "warrant for genocide." A Palestinian entity on the West Bank and Gaza has been described as a "time bomb" next to Israel. Any solution regarding the West Bank, according to Israel's present thinking, must provide for only one state between Israel and the Iraqi frontier. Thus, say the Israelis, if the Arabs want to solve the Palestine question they must do it either through the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or a Palestinian state spanning both sides of the Jordan, since the major population in the region is Palestinian. The exception, however, is Jerusalem which would remain Israel's unified capital. Such a solution is less than a solution for the Palestinians since it undoubtedly reinforces King Hussein's claims to the West Bank and avoids the crucial issue of the remaining 80 percent of Palestine, including the fertile coastal plains and valleys, and the return of the previous inhabitants.

Given the position of Israel towards Geneva, the US has little leeway for maneuver. The Ford administration, of course, has many means at its disposal for pushing Israel into a less intransigent mood on the Palestinian question, but there are many powerful factions in the Congress which would certainly reject "intimidation" of their ally. Currently US congressmen and senators are lining up to pressure the administration into maintaining its high level of military commitment to Israel though, in some cases, senators like McGovern who support a strong Israel would not find this inconsistent with the creation of a Palestinian entity. [11]

B. Soviet Union and Arab Clients

The Soviet Union (1967-75) has moved towards a closer accommodation with the PLO than the US. Until 1970 Moscow regarded the PLO and fedayeen groups as "adventurers" in the Middle East conflict and, from time to time after this, there has been strong reaction against hijacking of civilian aircraft, violence outside the Middle East involving innocent third parties, the activities of Black September at the Munich Olympic Games, and the like. Yet from Arafat's visits to Moscow (1970-72) a mutually satisfying dialogue developed between both parties. Moscow utilized PLO sources to improve its options throughout the Arab world and, in particular, in Cairo following the expulsion of Soviet personnel in July 1972. In Lebanon and in Jordan Moscow acted in mediatory roles for the PLO in its clashes with the authorities, while in Jordan President Podgorny interceded in March 1973 with King Hussein to spare the life of Fateh leader Abu Daoud. It is commonly believed that Soviet pressure on Nixon during the summit in Washington (June 1973) led to the communique including reference to the "legitimate interests" of the Palestinian people. Directly after the October War the Soviet Union made it known through its ambassador in Beirut that it considered the resistance to be the legitimate representative of the Palestine people, and the PLO as their sole spokesman. Furthermore it would use every power to secure representation of the Palestinian people at Geneva, if the resistance so wished. It would defend the Palestinian rights and regard their fulfillment as essential to any peaceful settlement. Strong Soviet backing for the PLO at the Palestine session at the UN (November 1974) was continuing confirmation of the policy of settling the problem within a national solution. [12]

On the surface the PLO would seem to have much to hope for in maintaining good relations with Moscow. Yet upon closer analysis the level of agreement on an overall settlement is not as convincing. While Moscow has moved towards recognition of the PLO it has never wavered on its position since 1967 regarding diplomatic recognition of Israel. Moscow's insistence, however, has been that Israel should withdraw from all territories taken in the Six Day War. Implied in this position is the fact that the Palestine question should be settled on the West Bank and Gaza - an area amounting to 19.5 percent of Palestine west of the River Jordan.

The most recent Soviet communiques with Egypt and Syria (21 and 26 April 1975) utilize varying degrees of emphasis on the formula "equal" rights of all the participants (including the PLO) to the Geneva peace talks. In the case of Syria, Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, at a banquet in honour of his counterpart Abdul-Halim Khaddam, referred to the "strictest guarantees" (i.e., security) for Israel provided she withdrew to the pre-June 1967 frontiers. In addition Moscow requested that Syria reduce the number of offensive weapons deployed along the frontiers with Israel - an indication of concern lest a flareup on the Golan frontier would destroy the momentum towards the reconvening of the Geneva Conference. When the PLO went to Moscow (April 28 - May 5) in the wake of the Syrian communique the result was no less predictable. This time Moscow resorted to the traditional formula of "'equal rights with other concerned parties in efforts towards a settlement in the Middle East including the Geneva conference."

In all these communiqués Israel's right to exist following a satisfactory peace agreement is implied by all the signatories. In the case of the PLO implied and/or tacit acceptance of Israel under the rubric of "equal rights with other concerned parties" is clearly beyond the position adopted in the 10-point provisional programme of the Twelfth Palestinian National Council (June 1974). Whether Arafat actually took it upon himself to move on tactical grounds or under pressure from Moscow, or both, is difficult to say. The impression, however, is that Moscow pushed the PLO to adopt a position in conformity with the other frontline Arab states, to facilitate an invitation to the PLO to attend the Geneva conference should differences with Israel and the US be resolved. The Rejection Front (September 1974) of the PLO has been most vociferous in denouncing the Soviet-PLO communiqué as a sell-out of Palestinian interests.

There is convincing evidence that Moscow is pushing its Arab clients, including the PLO, towards the Geneva conference. The emphasis on "strict guarantees" in the Syrian discussions would seem to imply that if Moscow can move this far from its clients in the direction of Israel, the US can move in the opposite direction, with the two meeting on an agreement over the PLO. Superpower guarantees on the security of the region might be a tradable compromise, though the extension of Soviet influence along Israel's eastern frontier would be a major worry to Israel and the US. Secondly, in US thinking, guaranteeing the stability and security of a Palestinian state on the West Bank might have the same effect as trying to keep the lid on Pandora's box! But would this be worse than another major war in the region with the attendant dangers of superpower confrontation, an oil crisis - perhaps the Armageddon?

4. PLO OPTIONS AT GENEVA: ANALYSIS If the PLO is invited to attend the Geneva conference, what policy options might it realistically explore? As we have seen, the available options open to a national liberation movement derive from its relationships with its local and international environments (i.e., the support/freedom syndrome). Measured over eleven years (1964-75) the PLO, with only brief intervening periods (1967-69), was unable to rise above state-regulated support in its local environment to pursue the revolution in the occupied territories. The extent of PLO revolutionary freedom within its natural environment was organically related to the level of Israeli retaliation tolerated by the Arab states. And since this level was at most times fairly low, the outcome for the PLO was a revolution maturing in "moth balls." In effect the PLO had too much regulated support (i.e., military, political and economic) and not enough freedom in its natural environment to utilize in the furtherance of the revolution. The supreme irony of the moment for the PLO lies in the fact that in the Arab world the revolution is held within restrictive bounds while in the wider international system it is a celebrated issue, where positive solutions like the "secular democratic state" have led to a groundswell of sympathy for the Palestinian people.

Yet as we have seen, the level of international support is too diffused and uncoordinated to be of much value to the PLO at this critical moment of its existence.

Available Options

Supposing the PLO is invited to go to Geneva, what might it realistically expect in the negotiations? [13] For argument's sake I postulate five options open to it in a descending order of importance:

1. Demand for the creation of the secular democratic state.

2. Demand for the creation of a West Bank entity including Gaza.

3. Explore US diplomatic recognition.

4. Use the occasion to frustrate the proceedings of the conference.

5. Rejection of the invitation on the grounds that the agenda is unfavourable.

Taking all these options one by one, in pursuit of their scope and limitations, in the light of the current realities confronting the PLO, where do they lead? The first point above is clearly out of the question. All the major parties are committed to a greater or lesser degree to accept Israel's right to exist within the 1967 frontiers. The relatively low military capabilities of the PLO in the occupied territories, and restrictions in its Arab environment, therefore make consideration of the "secular democratic state" unrealistic for the moment.

On the second option above, given some movement of the superpowers, a West Bank entity with a corridor to Gaza is a theoretical possibility. As we have seen, the PLO is committed to accept the return of any liberated territory. But is this the moment for the PLO to consider a Palestinian entity? How would it affect the continuation of the revolution? In some ways if the West Bank and Gaza were handed to the PLO on a "plate" with no ties and obligations to Israel (i.e., recognition) then 20 percent of Palestine seems a promising start. Yet only the most naive would believe that the Israelis and the Americans would not impose some form of recognition and restrictions on the Palestinian entity. However, assuming that the Executive Committee has the right of repossession, would all the organizations of the PLO (military, political, cultural, etc.) move onto the West Bank? Furthermore, close to the Israeli heartlands, would the new state serve as a viable base close to enemy territory for the continuation of the struggle?

Credits and debits can be seen in all the questions. For example, since the PLO constitutes the only legitimate authority of the Palestinian people, its presence would give positive direction to the new state. With the high level of institutional development on the West Bank stemming from the days of the British Mandate, the leadership of the PLO could within a very short time have the organs of government working. Contrary to popular belief they would not have to start from the beginning laying the groundwork for government. The presence of the organizations of the movement would add to the consolidation of the state (i.e., its military and political potentials). In addition, exiled Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza might return to claim their property. In time, peace between the Arabs and Israelis might lead to an interflow of people across the frontiers of Israel and the Palestinian state. Through natural peaceful evolution, the blending of cultures, the meeting of people, economic integration of the region, the secular democratic state of Palestine might emerge.

But let us ask the consequences of the PLO returning to the West Bank to claim its rights. It would almost certainly split the Palestinian ranks. The Rejection Front which withdrew from the Executive Committee in September 1974 on the question of "acceptance" of a national authority on any liberated territories, would probably form a breakaway PLO with the likelihood of rallying all those Palestinians whose homes were not on the West Bank or Gaza. The question of legitimate political authority would be thrown into relief with devastating consequences for the movement. Again the creation of a Palestinian state would lead to the authorities, say in Lebanon, "encouraging" the people in the camps to return home. The whole framework of Palestinian relations in Lebanon now under strain would be further destabilized.

But assuming that the Rejection Front did not secede from the movement, what about the reaction of the Israelis to the new PLO dominated and inspired state? With all the trappings of government, military potential, cultural institutions in one tight little corner, what a glorious opportunity for Israel to pick the cherry off the plate! With a substantive target before it - with all the PLO eggs, or is it cherries in one basket - the result would be highly predictable.

Of course the PLO does not have to return to the West Bank even if given the right to the territories. For example, with the infrastructure of government already there it might leave the administration either to sympathizers or right-wing notables. Perhaps the latter would be preferable in view of their acceptability to Israel and the United States. Moreover, support for the PLO on the West Bank would amount to their being no more than puppets. Mere acceptance of territorial rights would obviate Israeli schemes for the annexation of the area. Operating from without, the PLO might have room to maneuver and there would be less likelihood of deepening the rift with the Rejection Front or giving the Palestinian people the belief that it was selling out their interests for the return of the West Bank. But on the debit side the very existence of a Palestinian state close to Israel - given that the PLO stays out for the moment - would serve as a hostage to Israel. Thus PLO operations within Israel could be countered with an infinitely greater level of Israeli retaliation on the West Bank.

We have said nothing about superpower guarantees and the support of the neighbouring Arab states for this hypothetical entity. True, the US-USSR could hem in the Palestinian state, offering some measure of protection from Israel. Yet equally so, the Palestinian revolutionaries would have little freedom to maneuvre on the West Bank. As for the Arab states, if they secured an entity for the Palestinians in terms of an overall settlement at Geneva, they would hardly risk military support for the Palestinians on the West Bank for fear of disrupting the peace and inviting Israeli military retaliation. Nor of course would the big powers let them destabilize the region in the interests of the Palestinians. Thus with the prospects of a hostile Israel to the west, a hostile Jordan to the east, big power constraints, reluctance in Cairo and/or Damascus to open the conflict with Israel, the Palestinian revolution might easily wither, die or ossify through imposed constraints.

Taking the point of the optimists that coexistence with Israel might bring peace to the region leading to the natural integration of Jews and Arabs, it might be argued that the process could go the other way. For example, Israel now utilizes the West Bank as a corridor to Jordan and hopefully in the future to the wider Arab world. Economic integration is taking place with Jordanian and Palestinian commercial houses on the West Bank and Gaza - though not in Israel. Daily, large numbers of Arabs from the West Bank cross into Israel as a source of cheap labour to return in the evening to their "dormitories" in these territories. In this respect, there are striking parallels with South Africa's administration of its Bantustans.

The third option - explore US diplomatic recognition - if given without reciprocal recognition of Israel would be a positive gain, though its utility in the foreseeable future might be hard to determine, unless, however, the US adapted its new policies in accordance with UN resolutions on self-determination in Palestine.

The fourth option - frustrating the proceedings of the conference - is possible in theory though in practice it might be inadvisable. If there were substantial agreement by all the states on an overall settlement, which pro- vided for a West Bank entity, attempts by the PLO to frustrate this agreement could lead to the movement being "silenced" and a violent backlash from the frontline Arab states, making the position of the movement more untenable than before. Of course the likelihood of there being an overall agreement at the first session - indeed after many sessions - makes this question highly academic!

The fifth option - rejection of an invitation to attend Geneva - would perhaps be the least productive of practical gains in the short-term. If the Russians, Egyptians and Syrians worked hard to bring a change in US-Israeli attitudes only to find that the PLO reneged on the invitation, relations between the parties would not be very cordial. On the other hand, a spurned invitation could lead to the return of the Rejection Front to the Executive Committee of the PLO and to greater organizational cohesiveness. However rejection begs the question of the consequences of political isolation if the other parties decide to go to Geneva. If outstanding territorial differences were resolved on the Golan and Sinai fronts -with an agreed formula over Jerusalem -the subsequent bargaining position of the PLO would be severely weakened. Thus this option is only valid if all the indications - and there are many at this moment - point to the conference becoming little more than an injudicious and indecisive wrangle.

On the other hand, assuming that the Geneva conference meets without an invitation to the PLO, but includes in its agenda a wide-ranging discussion of the Palestine question on a bridging formula (i.e., Security Council resolution 242 and General Assembly resolution 3236 of November 1974), what realistic options seem open to the movement?

(1) Utilization of a formula providing for the Arab League and/or an Arab state (Syria would be the most likely) to hold a watching brief for the PLO at Geneva-perhaps with the hope of securing full membership at a later stage.

(2) Complete rejection of the unrepresentative nature of the conference and a call for Arab states to boycott it.

The first option moves in the direction of peaceful accommodation, though from a point of view of political weakness. For example, it might provide scope for the Palestinian case to be heard through a mediated response. Yet this option seems out of step with the present thinking of the PLO, since discussion of the Palestinian question would be taking place without the participation of the legal representative, while it turns back the clock from the UN self-determination resolution of November 1974 to No. 242 of November 1967. If there were any moves for an overall settlement-or at least some "positive" move on the Palestine question-it leaves the PLO out at the most critical moment. Such an eventuality would undoubtedly damage its credibility not only among the Palestinian people but in the wider international community. Equally so, it would shake the political consensus of the PLO to the roots-with the possibility of secessionism. True, the problem of PLO- Israeli "recognition" might be put aside for the moment to ensure that the conference did not founder on the Palestine question. Israel and the US in particular would benefit from this course of action. Yet from a PLO standpoint any formula which permits the Arab states to justify attendance at Geneva without an officially recognized PLO delegation might well leave the Palestinians in the wings - as they have been since 1948- while others talk peace with Israel.

From a tactical standpoint (i.e., second option), being denied an invitation makes rejection easier to handle than a rejected invitation (see option 5 above). If Syria, Egypt and Jordan broke solidarity with the PLO to attend Geneva, justification for such a course of action would fall on their shoulders. The Arab people would almost certainly regard such a move as a sell-out of Palestinian interests. Indeed the weakness of the PLO at this point might become its strength since it could become the focal point of an anti-peace axis including Libya and Iraq, etc. Egypt's recent (June) claim to speak on behalf of the Arab world at Geneva (i.e., in terms of peace) could well be thrown into doubt-or at least the momentum for peace would be slowed down. Such a trend of events would greatly benefit the PLO's revolutionary strategy since, in the future, a fifth Arab-Israeli war, with changes in the regional and international balances of power, might well lead to the dominoes falling the right way up.

In opening this article we pointed to the Geneva peace conference as both a threat and/or challenge to the PLO. Many critical decisions will have to be taken by the leadership over the next few weeks. The present balance of local and international forces is not conducive to the PLO's revolutionary goals. The threat from Geneva lies in the fact that the PLO may have to attend from a position of weakness, with allies anxious to secure a negotiated peace - even at the expense of the Palestinians. The challenge lies in the leadership apprising the available options open to the movement through either acceptance or rejection of an invitation to attend Geneva - should one be offered. The question "whither the PLO at Geneva" is also the crucial question for the continuation or ossification of the Palestinian revolution.

Research and scholarship requires investment. Generous contributions from people like you allow us to provide invaluable resources as a public good. Make a tax-deductible donation today!



Ronald R. Macintyre is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

1 UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 (XXIX), November 22, 1974.

2 Since these two variables will be used throughout this article some refinement seems necessary. By support I mean levels of regulation or control imposed by one or a group of states on the freedom of the national liberation movement. Ipostulate that the level of revolutionary freedom is related to the level of imposed state controls (i.e., regulation). Support therefore might be perceived on a high regulative - low diffuse continuum. Freedom relates to organizational autonomy to pursue revolutionary objectives. The national liberation movement which is a natural scion of its environment (i.e., a partitioned state) is fortunate since it stands a greater chance of coordinating revolutionary and environmental objectives. On the other hand, it is predictable that the national liberation movement which is at odds with its environment must suffer a subsequent loss of revolutionary freedom to pursue its objectives

3 To what extent does this organic relationship lead to high levels of coordinated support for the revolutionary goals of the Palestinians? Or, to what extent is the Arab environment responsive to the Palestinian revolution and at what level(s) does this operate?

4 President Nasser's long-term strategy for war with Israel led to restrictions on the revolutionary activism (freedom) of the PLO; King Hussein's schemes for integrating the West Bank into his kingdom in perpetuity - his unwillingness to be suddenly confronted with an Israeli counter-attack - likewise led to schemes for regulating the PLO, within if possible, and without, through imposed limitations on operational bases within Jordan. Ahmad Shuqairy's appointment as chairman of the PLO was designed and approved by the Arab states (in particular Egypt) to reduce the militancy of the movement. Shuqairy's appointment of men from well-known and respected Palestinian families (often in name rather than on merit) to the PLO Executive Committee was consistent with Arab summit aims of keeping the Palestine revolution within bounds. In 1969 the formation of Sa'iqa - the Palestinian resistance wing of the Ba'th party - and the Arab Liberation Front, the corresponding wing of the Iraqi Ba'th - were further examples of internal regulation orcontrol in the interests of the neighbouring Arab states.

5 See the theoretical assumptions associated with this power configuration on pp. 69-70 above.

6 Saudi Arabia gave full recognition of the PLO at the Algiers summit in 1973.

7 It provided for the coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims within a secular democratic state of Palestine. It implied the de-Zionization of Israel, which the PLO assumed to be the root of the problem. As a strategic objective it sought to give the reorganized PLO a new sense of purpose and direction - a new image boost within the Arab and wider international systems. See "Towards a Democratic State in Palestine" (Fateh paper), General Union of Palestine Students, Second World Conference on Palestine held in Amman, September 2-6, 1970.

8 The new leadership of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, certainly retained men from the Shuqairy period, but generally from 1969, men from less well known petit bourgeois families, often with a prominent educational background, entered the PLO Executive Committee. Changes in the elective process provided for election on the basis of merit rather than good family or "reliability" as under Shuqairy. Greater emphasis on ideology, revolutionary struggle, organizational unity and policy planning strongly suggests a generational gap in the Palestinian leadership (viz., 1964-67 and 1968-75).

9 On specific organizational development see Rashid Hamid's article, published in this issue of the Journal, p. 90 below.

10 Whether Damascus is committed to "recognition" of Israel or is simply manoeuvring to avoid isolation from Cairo and Moscow, is not yet clear. With the rival wing of the Ba'th in Iraq taking a hard line on any liquidation of the Palestine cause through a peace agreement with Israel, the Syrians seem reluctant to make definitive policy statements for or against "recognition."

11 Temporary suspension of US arms to Israel in the light of the review of US Middle Eastern policy might be a "warning" to Jerusalem to be "more open" in its approach towards the Geneva conference. How much further the Ford administration will be prepared to push Israel remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: if definite moves for bringing the parties together at Geneva do not get under way very soon, the US presidential campaign in 1976 will sidetrack the issues, traditionally in Israel's favour.

12 R.N. el-Rayyes and D. Nahas (eds.), Guerrillas for Palestine: A Study of the Palestine Commando Organizations (Beirut: An-Nahar Report Books (4), 1974), pp. 168-69.

13 See "Palestinian Leaders Discuss the New Challenges for the Resistance" (Beirut: Palestine Research Center, Essay no. 42, 1974).