home contact sitemap
background research material related activities keeping up-to-date
Home  >> Research Papers >> Sanctuary and Survival >> 7) Maintaining Sanctuary  
Research Material
Research Projects
Research Papers
Articles and Research Papers
  Newsletters and Opinion Surveys
Videos and Documentaries
Internet Resources

Sanctuary and Survival: The PLO in Lebanon

Boulder: Westview Press, 1990

by Rex Brynen

7) Maintaining Sanctuary
The PLO in Lebanon 1969-82: An Assessment

Lebanon had posed a severe test for the PLO. It was (and is) a country suffering from deep social, economic, and political divisions. The Palestinian armed presence had certainly exacerbated the contradictions of the Lebanese system, contradictions that exploded into the Lebanese civil war of 1975-76 and that continued to rend the country thereafter. But it did not create them. After all, Lebanon had fought an earlier civil war-over many of the same issues-in 1958, six years before the foundation of the PLO.

Lebanon has also always been something of a battleground for regional, great-, and superpowers. Once again, it is true that the PLO presence aggravated this. Certainly the PLO attracted greater levels of Israeli and Arab intervention in Lebanon-the inevitable consequence of the regional importance and permeability of the Palestine issue. But Lebanon had been a battleground long before this: in the preceding century alone, the Ottoman Empire had ruled over it; European powers had intervened and finally gained control of it; Arab, Syrian, and Lebanese nationalists and the early Zionist movement had laid claim to it; the United States had landed troops to "protect" it; Arab regimes had fought out their differences in it; years prior to the formation of the PLO, Israeli leaders had discussed the best way of gaining influence or control over it. Outside involvement in Lebanese affairs-often at the request of Lebanese actors-was hardly new.

On top of this, Lebanon's weakness relative to Israel allowed the latter to embark on a deliberate and sustained series of massive punishment raids against it, intervention designed to destabilize both the Palestinian presence in Lebanon and Lebanon itself. This in itself placed severe limits on the policy options open to the PLO leadership in its attempts to maintain satisfactory Palestinian-Lebanese relations.

Thus, from the beginning, maintaining a secure and useful sanctuary in Lebanon posed serious problems for PLO policy-makers. How did they fare?

It is undeniable that the PLO was successful in overcoming many of the formidable obstacles it faced in Lebanon. After the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Palestinian fida'iyyin had exploded onto the regional scene, winning mass support not only from their people but also from the broader Arab population. In the spring and summer of 1969 this support, coupled with external pressures from Egypt and Syria, allowed the Palestinian movement to resist the attempts of the Lebanese Army to suppress its activities in Lebanon. The end result was the Cairo Agreement of November 3, 1969, a document whereby the PLO gained official recognition of the legitimacy of a Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon. It would prove of central importance to PLO policy in Lebanon over the next thirteen years.

From 1969 to 1973, and especially after the suppression of the Palestinian movement in Jordan in 1970-71, Lebanon's importance to the PLO grew. During this period the PLO sought, through strategies of restraint and communication, to forestall further conflict with the Lebanese government. When conflict did erupt in 1973, Palestinian resistance, coupled with its internal alliance with the LNM and external alliances with Syria, Egypt and others, was such that the authorities were forced to accept a return to the status quo ante-the Cairo Agreement, as interpreted in the so-called Milkart Protocols. From May 1973 to April 1975, conflict was once more contained. The apparently declining value of the PLO's strategies of restraint and communication, however, led to intensified reliance on internal and external alliances and defensive military preparations. When the civil war erupted in 1975, the PLO's military defense of its positions, together with its internal alliance with the parties of the Lebanese National Movement and assistance from external Arab allies, succeeded in safeguarding the security of the Palestinian refugee camps during the first nine months of fighting. The situation deteriorated in January 1976 with attacks by the Lebanese Front on Palestinian camps in Beirut, to which the the PLO and LNM had responded with a counter-offensive, securing a partially effective ceasefire. That spring, continued political stalemate had led the PLO to support the LNM's "Mountain offensive" against the LF heartland. But the PLO would not be allowed to restructure Lebanese politics. Syrian military intervention on behalf of the Lebanese Front came in June, setting the stage for the massacre of thousands of Palestinian civilians at Tall al-Za'tar in August. In September, the Riyadh Summit brought the civil war to an all too ineffectual end.

The PLO and the bulk of the Palestinian population in Lebanon managed to emerge from the civil war battered but intact, despite its precarious military position. In 1976-77, through careful diplomacy and the counterbalancing use of external Arab allies, the PLO resisted hegemonic pressures from Syria. It also retained its arms, and its geographic position in south Lebanon. The PLO-LNM Joint Forces fought a proxy war in the south against Israeli-backed militias with increasing effectiveness, despite growing levels of Israeli intervention and the countless air raids, shellings, ground incursions, airborne and seaborne commando attacks, bombings and assassination attempts directed against them. The Joint Forces resisted an Israeli invasion in 1978. And, in the end, the PLO was only dislodged (imperfectly at that) after a massive Israeli invasion of Lebanon and two month siege of Beirut-a period of resistance longer than that offered by the Arab armies of 1956, 1967, and 1973 combined.

These political and military achievements were complemented by social and organizational ones. After its expulsion from Jordan, Lebanon became the headquarters of the PLO and focus of Palestinian institution-building. With the collapse of the Lebanese government in 1975-76, the PLO undertook (in cooperation with the LNM) the task of maintaining a skeleton of essential services in those areas under the Joint Forces' control. In the camps, the initiatives undertaken by Palestinian popular committees after the 1969 Cairo Agreement grew into a range of programs, from the supply of electricity and water to public sanitation. An extensive system of hospitals and clinics, open to Lebanese and Palestinians alike, was built and maintained by the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Palestinian mass organizations flourished, grouping together Palestinian workers, women, youth, professionals and other groups within common frameworks under the aegis of the PLO. Most importantly, Palestinians were able to institutionalize their own national consciousness, to solidify the sense of resurgent Palestinian identity that had propelled the rise of the modern Palestinian resistance movement before and after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

All of these were fundamental and impressive accomplishments given the difficulties the Palestinian movement faced. Yet PLO policy was also less coherent, and less effective, than it might have been.

The most important casualty was Lebanese public opinion. In 1969, widespread public support for the Palestinian movement in all Lebanon's confessional communities had effectively stymied Lebanese government efforts to suppress the fida'iyyin. Lebanese progressive parties played a particular role in mobilizing this support, and in turn found their growth catalyzed by the Palestinian presence. But even many conservative leaders, and especially the traditional Sunni urban leadership, had little choice but to echo cries for "freedom of action for the fida'iyyin" if they were to not risk their own political bases.

By the eve of the 1982 Israeli invasion, however, a significant degree of alienation between the PLO and its traditional Lebanese supporters had set in. Constant Israeli military pressure on Lebanon, resulting in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more was a major, perhaps the major, reason for this. Anti-Palestinian propaganda disseminated by Israel and the PLO's Lebanese opponents had fed this growing dissatisfaction. But so too had certain types of Palestinian behavior and policy. In turn, this weakening of the PLO's popular Lebanese position had "a vital impact on the PLO when the Israeli invasion began."1

A great many Lebanese fought, and died, alongside the Palestinians in resisting the 1982 Israeli invasion. Most would still support the Palestinian cause. Lebanese and Palestinians alike would participate in the post-1982 guerrilla campaign against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Still, after 1982, few Lebanese had any desire to return to the pre-1982 situation.

Lebanese Alliances: Friends and Enemies
The growth of the Palestinian movement in Lebanon in the late 1960s had been viewed with alarm by the conservative Lebanese elite, Christian and Muslim alike. The Palestinian presence attracted increased Israeli military action against Lebanon, attacks which inflicted not only a heavy human cost but also a growing economic toll on the service-oriented Lebanese economy. The Palestinian presence was disruptive in other ways too, with armed Palestinian guerrillas disturbing public order or flaunting Lebanese law and authority. Most fundamentally, however, the Palestinian resistance movement was a dangerous challenge to the Lebanese system itself. The very presence of a militant, generally progressive and avowedly non-sectarian popular movement in an unequal laissez-faire society wherein the privileges of a relatively small number of leading families were sustained by a precarious sectarian political order was clearly a destabilizing element. The mass popularity of the fida'iyyin only heightened this danger, as did the intensification of Lebanon's own domestic economic and political crisis in the early 1970s. It is in this light that attempts by the Lebanese state (and later by the Phalange, Lebanese Forces, and other self-appointed defenders of the status quo) to suppress the PLO should be seen.

Within the PLO itself, no universally-accepted interpretation of Lebanon's political dynamics ever emerged. For some, the Lebanese conflict was motivated by sectarianism; for others, by class forces transcending confessional boundaries. Still others placed emphasis on the regional dimensions of Lebanese conflict. But for the most part the Fateh mainstream, initially at least, seemed to believe the Palestinian movement could avoid being dragged into Lebanese domestic struggles.

As a result the PLO adopted two major strategies designed to reduce tensions with the Lebanese government and conservative parties: restraint and communication. With regard to the former, the PLO announced (but rarely adhered to) its series of temporary freezes on cross-border activity in south Lebanon in the early 1970s. It also attempted to regulate the behavior of Palestinian guerrillas, through its own military police (the Palestine Armed Struggle Command), judicial system, and internal security forces ("Force 17"). In pursuit of the latter, dialogue was initiated with the Phalange Party and Christian leaders in an effort to ease the Christian right's concerns over the Palestinian armed presence.

Ultimately, however, such policies could achieve only limited results. Although the overall cost of the Palestinian presence to Lebanese decision-makers might be mitigated by reducing transitory PLO-related costs-Israeli retaliation, Palestinian misbehavior, and so forth-the structural component of this cost represented by the PLO's role as a revolutionary catalyst was in essence irreducible. The PLO was an indirect danger to the economic, political, and confessional privileges of the Lebanese elite by the very fact of its being. Conflict with the Lebanese government and its right-wing defenders was therefore inevitable, even more so as the PLO increasingly (and necessarily) allied itself with the reformist and revolutionary parties of the Lebanese National Movement. At best a strategy of restraint or communication might postpone such conflict or reduce its intensity. It could not, however, forestall it completely. Those who argued that the PLO could avoid being drawn into Lebanese issues-a view encapsulated in Fateh's slogan of "non-interference" in the internal affairs of Arab regimes-had underestimated the degree to which the Palestinian presence and struggle was, in and of itself, a Lebanese issue. The PLO could refrain from intervening in other inter-Lebanese political conflicts, but it could not prevent itself from becoming the focus of one.

The PFLP and DFLP had always known this, although their enthusiasm for the Lebanese social struggle often led them to aggravate the problem. In the belief that Palestinian liberation required a broader revolutionary transformation of the surrounding Arab countries, both were active in their support of sister parties in the LNM. The Arab-sponsored resistance organizations-Syria's al-Sa'iqa, Iraq's Arab Liberation Front-also became active in Lebanese politics through their local Ba'thist equivalents in support of the foreign policy objectives of their respective parent regimes. Meanwhile the various progressive parties that comprised the LNM were, through the late 1960s and early 1970s, only too anxious to tie their fortunes to that of the Palestinian resistance. The PLO was progressive, popular, and a partial guarantee against suppression of the left by a conservative Lebanese state. All of this undercut much of the effectiveness of the PLO's nominal policy of self-restraint, since Palestinian involvement in Lebanese politics was fundamentally provocative to the Lebanese right.

After September 1970, most of this became a moot point. Confrontation with Jordan, and later with other Arab regimes, narrowed the practical differences between Palestinian groups: whether cast in terms of class analysis or otherwise, most came to accept that in the Arab world the PLO was an essentially disruptive force. A basic contradiction existed between the Palestinians' raison de revolution and the Arab regimes' raison d'état. The 1973 clashes with the Lebanese Army reinforced the point. With the outbreak of the civil war, the PLO mainstream needed no more convincing. Fateh became as active as any other Palestinian group in promoting alliances with Lebanese actors and intervening in Lebanese politics; indeed, as the largest Palestinian organization it became the most heavily involved.

Was this inevitable "Lebanization" of the Palestinian issue a carte blanche for the PLO to involve itself in Lebanese politics? Did it invalidate any strategy of Palestinian restraint? Lebanese opposition to the Palestinian armed presence was initially weak and divided, a weakness evident in the PLO's ability to wrest from the authorities terms as advantageous as those contained in the Cairo Agreement of 1969. Active (and often gratuitous) Palestinian intervention in Lebanese political affairs, coupled with cross-border firing, the flaunting of Lebanese sovereignty, the high visibility and poor public behavior of some guerrillas-all of this only served to solidify opposition to the fida'iyyin while ultimately weakening the PLO's own essential Lebanese popular base of support. Pressures exerted first by Kamal Junblat as Lebanese Interior Minister in the early 1970s, and later by the LNM, to restrict certain Palestinian activities was a reflection of their genuine concern as to the damage being done to the PLO (and themselves) by the guerrillas' tendency to showmanship and weak discipline. But this pressure was resisted, and eventually overcome, by the PLO in the name of freedom of action-to the PLO's ultimate cost.

Did the inevitability of conflict imply that dialogue with the Lebanese right was useless? The Palestinian left sometimes argued that it did. But to accept this view is to grant the Lebanese ruling class-a category embracing Maronite leaders, Sunni urban bosses, semi-feudal Shi'a leaders in the south, and many others-a homogeneity and unity of purpose that it simply did not have. Such differences might even have been exploited to the PLO's advantage. The problem with dialogue lay not with the principle, but with the underlying absence of agreement on a clear Lebanese policy.

Still, given the limitations on the use of the strategies of restraint and communication, it was the PLO's internal alliances which had to assume overriding importance in Palestinian policy in Lebanon. As the clashes of 1969, 1973, and 1975-76 showed, the PLO's Lebanese opponents were unable to suppress a Palestinian movement which enjoyed broad support from the Lebanese population and the parties of the LNM. Israel and Syria were similarly limited. Throughout this period, the PLO's links with the LNM and Lebanese masses were strong, productive and multidimensional: formal contacts between PLO and LNM leaders; joint commands and the Joint Forces; inter- and intra-organizational ties. At the grass-roots, social as well as political ties between Palestinians and Lebanese, and the settlement of poor Lebanese in and around the refugee camps, brought the two even closer together.

From the mid-1970s onwards, however, the PLO's Lebanese support and the strength it derived from its internal alliance with the Lebanese National Movement began to dwindle. Objective factors beyond the PLO's immediate control-the 1977 death of LNM leader Kamal Junblat, political sectarianization, Arab interference, Israeli retaliatory policy-all played a major role in this. But so too did important aspects of PLO behavior. Continued Palestinian cross-border military action in the face of a clear Israeli policy of massive retaliation shifted much of the burden of blame for the destruction of south Lebanon from Israel to the easier and more accessible scapegoat of the Palestinian armed presence. With the PLO-dominated Joint Forces now in control of West Beirut and large portion of the south, the impact of negative aspects of Palestinian guerrilla behavior was magnified.

Finally, the PLO's ever increasing intervention in the Lebanese National Movement undercut that organization's political status and further damaged the reputation of the Palestinian resistance in the eyes of its erstwhile supporters. In an attempt to increase its local influence, Fateh increasingly engaged in the creation of marginal but compliant Lebanese organizations-"shops"-owing primary loyalty to Palestinian paymasters. Many were little more than local street gangs, armed and financed by Fateh and operating under grandiose Islamic or Nasirite titles. These groups, although addressing short-term requirements of local military and political influence, were in the longer term unable to address the social and political problems facing the Lebanese National Movement. Their inability to confront these tasks weakened the LNM from within, burdening the PLO with Lebanese responsibilities that it was neither able nor willing to solve.

Thus, instead of building on the mass base that had allowed the Palestinian movement to survive multiple challenges to its position between 1969 and the civil war, the chief focus of the PLO's Lebanese policy after 1976 shifted elsewhere, to force majeure. This was particularly evident in the south, where the PLO responded forcefully to growing levels of Shi'ite opposition to Palestinian military deployments. Palestinian military preponderance, not the LNM or the sympathies of the Lebanese population, became the primary means upon which Palestinian political power and independence in Lebanon rested-joint PLO-LNM commands, consultation, and stirring declarations of solidarity notwithstanding.

The PLO's emphasis on a strategy of "defense" maintained the security and status of the PLO in Lebanon for some six years, from 1976 to 1982. It came at the cost of further Lebanese resentment of what now appeared a Palestinian state-within-the-state. Unlike the PLO's previous reliance on internal allies, the foundations of its post-civil war position was essentially a political house of cards. By removing one material element-the PLO's armed superiority-the PLO's position in Lebanon could be brought tumbling down. And this, of course, is precisely what Israel did in the summer of 1982.

External Alliances: The PLO and Lebanon in Regional Politics
If the Palestinian movement and issue could not be isolated from the dynamics of Lebanese political and social conflict, it was no less inextricably tied to developments at the regional level. The PLO's external alliances with varying Arab actors constituted an important part of its Lebanese policy. Inter-Arab politics posed important pressures, constraints and opportunities for Palestinian decision-makers. Because of the nature of both the Palestinian cause and Palestinian movement, those pressures were both external and internal in nature. Perhaps nowhere was that relationship more graphically-and importantly-illustrated than in the case of PLO-Syrian relations.

Damascus, of course, had important interests at stake in Lebanon stemming from Syria's historic ties to the area, Lebanon's strategic importance to Syrian national security, and Syria's desire to exert influence over the PLO and the Palestinian cause. Damascus also had powerful instruments of policy available. It had much to offer the PLO as an external ally. The PLO was, particularly before 1976, heavily reliant on Syrian bases to maintain its position in Lebanon. It had reason to call upon Syria for more direct diplomatic and material assistance in the face of threats posed by the Lebanese government or right wing in 1969, 1973 and 1975-76. And Damascus had means of coercion against the PLO, whether through covert intelligence operations, Lebanese proxies or (from 1976) the presence of Syrian troops in Palestinian areas. Such a combination of dependence and vulnerability to coercion severely constrained the PLO's abilities to contravene Syrian wishes, placing a heavy cost upon any open defiance of Damascus. Indeed, even open discussion of Syrian-PLO relations was inhibited, a "Syrian check on Palestinian democracy"2 that was only briefly lifted in the summer of 1976 when bilateral differences exploded into direct confrontation.

On top of this, Syria could exert influence on the PLO from within. Syrian policy and pressure was direct transmitted into Palestinian decision-making forums through the presence of al-Sa'iqa. Unilateral actions by Syrian proxy groups could also be used to advance Syrian interests, even where these directly contravened the stance of the mainstream PLO. Because of Syria's weight, there was little the PLO could do to prevent this, short of open conflict with Damascus: in the stark words of one Fateh leader, "so much as arrest a Syrian pimp and [Syrian Chief-of-Staff] Hikmat Shihabi would be calling Yasir 'Arafat to complain."3 Significantly, when confrontation did come in June 1976 the suppression of pro-Syrian organizations was one of the first steps taken by Fateh.

Could conflict with Syria have been avoided? Not surprisingly, Sa'iqa argued that it could, and that the PLO had in 1976 failed to take adequate account of Syria's important interests in Lebanon.4 In retrospect the PLO's adoption of a strategy of offense in the spring of 1976-its attempt to forcefully realign Lebanese politics in tandem with its National Movement allies-was doomed to failure. But few in the Palestinian movement came to believe that conflict with Syria could have been mitigated in its entirety. For while Lebanese issues had provided the immediate reason for Syrian intervention in 1976, the sources of Syrian-Palestinian friction were more deeply rooted in Hafiz al-Asad's continuing suspicion of the independence of Palestinian decision-making, an independence that Lebanese events only seemed to confirm. As Salah Khalaf later reflected:

On the Lebanese field, sometimes we used to be involved in some proposals or projects without understanding that there is a "red line" in dealing with Lebanese matters, For example, the "Battle of the Mountain" [March 1976]. It was well known that we would not be allowed to move towards Junya.... When we moved into the Mountain, it was an excuse for the Syrians to come, to enter our areas. That was the big mistake we made. Not the conflict with Syria-the conflict was going to happen. But it was our mistake to give the Syrians a reason, an excuse to come [emphasis added].5

No other Arab country so affected PLO policy in Lebanon as did Syria, and no other country figured so prominently in it. But this is not to say that they did not try-Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Algeria and others all played a role in Lebanese events too. Indeed as Syrian leverage grew, so too did other Arab intervention as other Arab regimes sought either to forestall Syrian dominance of the PLO or to achieve policy objectives of their own. With the increasing fragmentation of the inter-Arab regional system in the 1970s, inter-Arab competition and conflict grew still further.

All of this was reflected within both the PLO and within Lebanese domestic politics, both highly sensitive to their regional environment. Faced with contradictory demands from its Arab allies, the PLO was forced to engage in a difficult balancing act, playing off (as in the case of the 1976-77 Quadripartite Committee) the pressures and interests of one against the other, whilst all the time seeking to permanently alienate none.

In this sense, inter-Arab conflict aided the PLO in its search for external allies. But any such benefit was more than offset by other effects.

First, growing levels of inter-Arab conflict-in particular Egypt's defection from the ranks of the Arab confrontation states in 1978, and later the inter-Arab repercussions of the Iran-Iraq war-severely weakened the deterrent restraints Israel might have otherwise felt. As Israeli pressure on south Lebanon grew, the PLO sought to mobilize sufficient Arab and international opposition to abort full-scale Israeli intervention. After the war, it would debate whether its diplomatic efforts had been sufficient, whether further moves might have prevented the Lebanese war.6 But the PLO was sharply limited in its ability to affect its regional environment. Inexorably or otherwise, Israeli attacks culminated in the full-scale invasion of June 1982.

Second, growing regional conflict was also manifest in internal conflict within the PLO and Lebanon. Inter-Arab rivalries fought through Lebanese and Palestinian proxies hastened the deterioration of the security climate in Lebanon, exacerbating the problem of tajawuzat and discrediting both the PLO and the LNM.

Such factors assumed the political geometry of a vicious circle. The intensification of Arab pressures fueled the PLO's efforts to maintain its independent base of operations in Lebanon. This in turn aggravated both Lebanese tensions and Arab pressures as Syria and others redoubled their efforts to influence the PLO in Lebanon.

Thus the PLO's struggle to maintain its independence and freedom of action in Lebanon became paramount. And the process itself underscored the manner in which the strategic purposes and role of the Palestinian movement's Lebanese sanctuary had undergone substantial change.

Lebanon in Palestinian Strategy
Modern Palestinian guerrilla action, initiated in the 1960s, had been intended to serve as both a popular liberation war against Israel and as a catalyst to greater Arab-Israeli confrontation. It had also been intended to rebuild a shattered Palestinian political community, and to reestablish the Palestinian cause on regional and international agendas. After 1967 the latter would be substantially achieved: in the aftermath of the June defeat, Palestinian guerrilla action struck a particularly defiant and receptive popular note, catapulting the resistance to the political forefront of the Palestinian issue. The mystique of the fida'iyyin had been born.

As the 1970s progressed, objective and subjective circumstances led to a gradual change in Palestinian political strategies. "Black September" of 1970, the limited objectives set for the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, clashes with the Lebanese government and the PLO's reluctant envelopment in civil strife there-all of these events served to underscore the ambiguous nature of the Palestinian movement's relations with Arab regimes. At the same time, the Rabat Summit Declaration of 1974 (recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people) and the entrance that same year of the PLO into the United Nations reflected the heightened international profile of the organization and its cause. These two developments, coupled with the continued strength of Israel and unlikelihood of achieving the PLO's initial maximalist program of liberating all Palestine, led to a revision of PLO objectives. Specifically, the immediate goal (if not the dream) of a non-sectarian democratic state in all of Palestine was set aside in favor of a more achievable objective. In 1974, the 12th session of the Palestine National Council endorsed such an approach when it called for the establishment of a "national authority" on any portion of Palestinian land liberated. After 1977 this objective crystallized into the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

All of this had several implications for the Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon. First, it cast Palestinian operations from Lebanon against northern Israel in a new light. Such attacks, even at their height, had never posed a serious threat to Israeli national security, whatever their internal Palestinian value or other political achievements.7 Now even their political significance was gradually reduced: if the West Bank and Gaza Strip were to be the target of immediate Palestinian liberation efforts, it was here too that Palestinian energies should be concentrated, in an effort to render Israeli occupation as costly as possible. At best, Lebanese cross-border operations might be used sporadically, as an acte de presence intended to derail specific regional developments (such as the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations) inimical to Palestinian interests. At worst, such operations actually undermined the PLO's own objectives. They diverted attention and resources away from the occupied territories.8 By striking at pre-1967 Israel, they obscured the PLO's emerging acceptance of an independent Palestinian state. Given the civilian nature of most of those targets attacked, cross-border terrorism damaged the PLO's international reputation, and hence devalued the very diplomatic currency it increasingly sought to use in the post-October War period. And, most important in Lebanese terms, Palestinian operations from Lebanon invited (or provided a pretext for) Israeli retaliation aimed at destabilizing the Palestinian movement's Lebanese base.

For the PLO, the deterioration of its position in Lebanon caused by cross-border attacks might have been tolerable had they represented a major source of military pressure on Israel. But they did not; on the contrary, Lebanon's real importance lay elsewhere. By the very nature of the Palestinians' own evolving political objectives, Lebanon had become important not as a military front but as a headquarters for Palestinian diplomatic activity, as a coordination point for popular, diplomatic, and armed struggle in the occupied territories and elsewhere. All of this required a substantial, secure, and independent Palestinian infrastructure. Indeed, the very essence of the PLO's claim to an independent Palestinian state as it was now being put forward necessitated steadfastness in the occupied territories and a demonstrably independent Palestinian polity-in-exile and national identity-and hence a largely autonomous territorial base free from external interference. This the Palestine Liberation Organization found in Lebanon, and only in Lebanon.

This latter point-that the importance of Lebanon to the PLO was political, not military-was fully understood by then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who confronted it directly in June 1982. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon had not been intended to destroy the Palestinian movement in a single stroke. What the invasion did seek was a weakening of the PLO's politico-military power and its territorial and political autonomy. After this, the coup de grâce would be left to others-notably Syria and Jordan, who could be expected to spare little effort in attempting to exert their own particular hegemonies over the weakened Palestinians and PLO. The primary purpose of "Operation Peace for Galilee" was not to halt Palestinian attacks on northern Israel. Rather, it was an attempt to produce a weakened, more radical PLO under Syrian dominance that would become preoccupied with a struggle for Palestinian loyalties with the Hashemite regime in Jordan-a PLO which would pose a lesser political threat to Israel, and one with which Israel would feel less international pressure to eventually negotiate. The invasion of 1982 thus illustrated more than anything else Israeli fears of the dangers posed by an independent Palestinian movement, and especially an independent Palestinian movement whose status and security had been enhanced since July 1981 by the conclusion and maintenance of a ceasefire on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Within the PLO, the Lebanese implications and requirements of all this were long debated. Some pressed for freezes on military operations in the south, pointing to both military and political imperatives. But in doing so they argued against the weight of dominant Palestinian images of Israel, images that suggested Israel was driven by an expansionist, racist and imperialist Zionist ideology, fundamentally committed to both the destruction of Palestinian nationalism and the occupation of south Lebanon. Given this, ceasefires were often seen as ineffectual even as a short-term tactical means of recouping Palestinian strength and easing Israeli pressure on the Lebanese people. Israel, this view argued, would attack nonetheless; ceasefires could only compromise the integrity of Palestinian armed struggle and the PLO's Cairo Agreement "rights" whilst conceding the military initiative to the IDF. Only by the late 1970s did a more sophisticated view of the complexities of Israeli society and security policy begin to gain currency.

Moreover issues of Lebanese policy such as the ceasefire debate often cut to ideological and psychological core of the Palestinian movement. As such they became bound up with broader and unresolved issues of the PLO's own changing position on issues as fundamental as the goals of the struggle and the optimum means of achieving Palestinian liberation. The acceptance of UNIFIL thus seemed to some to signal acceptance of the primacy of diplomatic efforts; the 1981 ceasefire implied the tacit recognition of Israel and hence of a two-state solution to the Palestinian question. Indeed, after the 1982 war some of Yasir 'Arafat's radical critics would carry this view even further, charging that dominance of the LNM and the construction of state institutions had represented a deliberate attempt to hold Lebanon as a political "hostage" for "some solution in the occupied territories." Lebanese policy was consequently identified as a direct outcome of the "rightist trend" in PLO policy since the 1974 PNC.9 However much they may have exaggerated the process, they were right in a sense. For as argued above, the objective role of the PLO's Lebanese sanctuary had altered with broader changes in the PLO's political direction.

Yet despite this political transition, the mystique of armed struggle continued to dominate Palestinian political discourse in and about Lebanon through much of the 1970s. In many respects, the means-military action-became a veritable end in itself. Accordingly, until 1978, no freeze on PLO cross-border military operations endured longer than a few weeks. And, in fairness, Palestinian field commanders and fighters could be excused much of their confusion regarding the political rationale which lay behind the conduct, or non-conduct, of military action. Pursuing the politics of ambiguity in an effort to maintain internal unity, the Palestinian leadership itself never clearly set forth the strategy which lay behind such decisions. If the PLO leadership understood the importance of Lebanon-and it is clear from their intense effort to preserve the PLO's position there that they certainly did-that understanding and the needs stemming from it were never clearly articulated to Palestinian cadres or public.

Such confusion was manifest, among other places, in the organizational and doctrinal development of Palestinian military forces. To protect the Palestinian presence against Lebanese opponents, and to increase political control over military ranks, the "regularization" of PLO guerrilla forces progressed in the 1970s and early 1980s. Larger units, formal ranks and command structures were established; artillery and other heavy weapons were acquired. But the more visible nature of such units and weapons made them more vulnerable to Israel and more provocative to many Lebanese than fida'i guerrilla bands had ever been. This was particularly true of Palestinian artillery, acquired to circumvent UNIFIL and Israeli border defenses, deter Israeli attacks, and strike back against the Haddad enclave. Cross-border shelling, rather than cross-border infiltration, scarcely seemed heroic to the beleaguered Lebanese who usually bore the brunt of Israeli retaliation.10

It was in this context, and against the threat of a massive Israeli invasion, that the PLO eventually did begin to deemphasize Lebanese operations, a process marked by its acceptance of UNIFIL deployment in 1978 and the cross-border cease-fire agreement of July 1981. In fact, these decisions were taken as much to calm Lebanese public opinion as to prevent Israeli military intervention. But the process came too late to achieve either.

If the inevitable conflation of issues of Lebanese policy with broader questions of PLO aims and objectives inhibited the PLO's ability to respond to Lebanese circumstances, it was the mechanisms of Palestinian decision-making that provided the most immediate constraints.In part, these reflected the external pressures on the PLO and the changing circumstances in which it found itself between 1969 and 1982. But the process whereby PLO policy emerged in Lebanon also reflected inherent problems of central authority.

PLO Decision-making in Lebanon
The need to build consensus (evident in all but the most pressing emergencies) has created quite remarkable levels of democracy within the PLO. It has often done so, however, at the immediate cost of clear, coherent and effective policy. Even then, the PLO central establishment has generally exerted but weak control over activities of individual organizations.

Fundamental but non-urgent issues before the Palestinian movement have been most likely to be resolved by formal procedures and the PLO's highest decision-making bodies, the PNC or PLO Central Council. In such cases (for example, the PNC's 1974 decision to establish a "national authority" on any liberated Palestinian soil) such procedures have been necessary if the matter under consideration is to receive, and be seen to receive, the broadest and most powerful stamp of Palestinian approval and legitimacy. This process, however, would prove less appropriate to questions of Lebanese policy, questions that often arose in an immediate atmosphere of crisis. It is difficult to assemble from around the world the several hundred Palestinian representatives necessary to convene a session of the Palestine National Council; it would be done only nineteen times, in five different countries, in the twenty-four years from 1964 to 1988. The Central Council, smaller and consisting of the more important members of the PNC, has generally been able to meet every three months or so between PNC sessions. But it has remained unwieldy for the purposes of immediate decision-making. Because of this, neither the PNC nor the Central Council played a major role in the formulation of Palestinian policy in Lebanon. PNC resolutions on Lebanon were largely an exercise in platitudes, carefully written so as not to offend the Lebanese, Syria, or other Arab regimes.11 Similarly the Central Council, while discussing Lebanese issues in more detail, was largely confined to confirming policy decisions taken earlier on the spot.

A somewhat larger role was played by the PLO Executive Committee. Despite its formal subordination to the PNC, the Executive Committee has enjoyed broad latitude in framing and interpreting policy. Smaller than the PNC or CC, it has been able to meet monthly or even biweekly. And it contains representatives (officially or as observers) of each Palestinian organization, thus providing a forum within which inter-group negotiation and compromise can take place. But in many respects it was still ill-suited for Lebanese decision-making. Many of its members resided outside Lebanon at any given time. The fact that many Committee members are organizational representatives has tended to slow proceedings due to their need to consult with their own political leaderships. In matters of Lebanese policy, the PLO Executive Committee assumed a major role in framing formal responses to developments, especially non-urgent ones, and in bestowing greater legitimacy and authority upon potentially sensitive and divisive decisions. But in many cases, the real locus of PLO decision-making during the 1969-82 period rested elsewhere.

The first of these was the Central Committee of Fateh (or those members available in Lebanon at the time). If at all possible, Fateh would determine its own unified position on an issue before the matter was discussed with other groups, or brought formally before the PLO Executive Committee. Important negotiations and discussions with the Lebanese government, Syria, the LNM, the UN or others were almost invariably headed by senior members of the Fateh leadership, notably Salah Khalaf, Hani al-Hasan, 'Atallah 'Atallah or 'Arafat himself. (Mahmud 'Abbas and Muhammad Ghunaym, largely based in Damascus, also handled much of the contact with the Syrians.) PLO (and Joint Forces) military operations in Lebanon were commanded (formally) by 'Arafat, (practically) by Khalil al-Wazir, overseen by a Central Operations room headed by (Fateh Central Committee member) Sa'd Sayil and (Fateh Revolutionary Council member) Sa'id Musa Muragha, and implemented in regional commands under al-'Asifa commanders. Fateh similarly dominated the PLO's informational and diplomatic machinery. As a result, much of the PLO's Lebanese policy was formulated and implemented by unilateral action or administrative fiat.

A second important body of the PLO's Lebanese decision-making tended to dominate the more urgent and important issues of the 1969-82 period. This was the office of the PLO Chairman, in consultation with what was generically referred to as the "leadership of the Palestinian revolution" or the "Palestinian-Lebanese joint command." This comprised input from 'Arafat's senior colleagues in the Fateh leadership and an ad-hoc availability group drawn from:

1. Lebanese-based members of the PLO Executive Committee, especially those (regardless of affiliation) considered specialists in Lebanese affairs.

2. The leaders (or, if unavailable, their deputies or other senior members) of each Palestinian resistance organization. Of these, the PFLP and DFLP were by far the most important, reflecting as they did significant portions of Palestinian opinion. Other organizations (especially Sa'iqa and the ALF) provided external inputs into the process by expressing the position of their respective Arab sponsors.

3. Senior Palestinian military commanders, especially if the matter under consideration was of a military nature.

4. On Lebanese issues, members of the LNM leadership. During his lifetime Kamal Junblat dominated this role. Later Walid Junblat, George Hawi of the LCP, and Muhsin Ibrahim of OCA became the most important figures in this regard.

By virtue of his centrality in the process, the views and leadership attributes of the PLO Chairman-his "charismatic autocracy" and "superb ability in maneuverability," as one close observer termed them-assumed considerable importance as an internal variable in decisions made this way.12 Because the participants in the process were leaders and experts in their own right rather than organizational representatives, the process tended to produce a faster and more innovative policy response. Objective factors and a sober appraisal of the situation assumed a greater importance, an effect reinforced by the tendency of the Palestinian movement to pull together and subordinate competition to survival in times of crisis. On the other hand once crises had passed, competition resurfaced and even previously-accepted policy decisions could prove contentious. Fateh, having received a decision, would move to implement its own interpretation thereof; dissidents, despite having acquiesced under the pressure of events, would now feel less constrained to abide.

The Impact of Disunity
Indeed, on many issues of Lebanese policy the political incentives to deviate from a previously agreed position outweighed the value of adherence. This was particularly evident with regard cross-border ceasefires. But the impact of Palestinian disunity extended far beyond this, into other areas of policy too. Weak internal Palestinian cohesion, control and coordination severely undermined the effectiveness of Palestinian policy. It created inconsistencies which undermined the PLO's credibility in the eyes of its allies and opponents alike. Uncontrolled Palestinian behavior-most notoriously and damagingly evidenced in the form of tajawuzat-seriously undercut the PLO's Lebanese position, compromising what had once been its essential Lebanese base. At the same time, the PLO's alienation of Lebanese public opinion facilitated the task of external actors (Israeli and Arab alike) seeking to destabilize the Palestinian presence in Lebanon.

By the early 1980s, the latter had become among the most pressing problems facing the PLO in Lebanon. But while the dangers of tajawuzat were often recognized, the problem was never solved-for several reasons. Much of the chaos was externally instigated, beyond the PLO's control. The PLO was constantly (and deliberately) distracted by the ongoing confrontation with Israel in the south. Paradoxically, the very security measures necessary to contain tajawuzat were themselves provocative to Lebanese opinion, being seen as further evidence of the Palestinian construction of a "state within the state." And, most importantly in terms of policy, the PLO's ability to deal with tajawuzat was limited by the very organizational weaknesses that generated it in the first place. As Khalil al-Wazir noted in retrospect:

We have our lessons of what was in Lebanon First of all, let me say that a part of our mistakes was a lack of strong control over our Palestinian organizations and their way of dealing with the people in a part of Lebanon. Sometimes there were mistakes by this group or that in a given area. Some were serious, and others were not-but there were mistakes. A second mistake was in our way of dealing with each other, as Palestinian organizations. We did not pay so much attention to strengthening our unity in Lebanon. Although we were all in one organization, as the PLO, and although we were controlling the central situation, every organization was still free to do whatever they could. They could make mistakes here or there, without control.13

In a similar vein, Salah Khalaf later commented:

The unity between the organizations was not strong-this is one [mistake]. Because there was not the unity we needed, there was a lack of control among the organizations, with each acting by itself. Because there were so many sections-a security section for each organization, for example; social affairs for each organization; information departments for each organization-this large number of groups, of sections, of offices confused matters and made them difficult to control. And that, of course, created incidents in proportion to the number of sections or offices.14

Disunity thus created the organizational and political gaps which allowed tajawuzat to grow, with serious negative consequences for the PLO's popular Lebanese image. To the extent that much of this was a result of the inevitable penetration of the PLO by Arab regimes and their proxies, there was little that could be done to rectify the situation. Nevertheless, the independent nature of the major, mass-based resistance organiza-tions-Fateh, the PFLP and DFLP-placed on them a special responsibility to address the weaknesses stemming from Palestinian disunity. To the extent that they failed to do so, they bore significant responsibility for the political atmosphere within which tajawuzat and lack of coordination endured.

In the case of Fateh, political maneuverability and ambiguity, adopted so as to preserve the unity of the broad-based Fateh movement and the broader PLO, often came at the cost of a clear political program and course of political action. Because of the very different ideological and political currents which make up its nationalist membership (and that of the PLO as a whole), the Fateh leadership felt limited in its ability to publicly elucidate policies. One effect of this has been to encourage clique formation among Fateh sub-groups, and the use of patronage and private structures of authority to assure policy compliance. In Lebanon, fealty often came to be prized over competence; corruption by local Palestinian (and Lebanese) commanders and ill-disciplined behavior by guerrillas were overlooked in the interests of power. This approach was eventually applied to Lebanese politics too, with damaging consequences to both the LNM and the PLO-LNM alliance.

Such behavior was criticized by the PFLP and DFLP. In contrast to Fateh, wherein tajawuzat were usually the product of its loose organization, the DFLP and PFLP were less vulnerable to this by virtue of their Leninist internal structures. But they were not entirely innocent of such practices either. Ideological commitment could be negatively manifest in adventurism, disregard for Lebanese law, and a lack of sensitivity to the religious feeling and moral conservatism of the south Lebanese peasantry. Moreover, these organizations were themselves a major reason for Fateh's actions, having acted throughout the early 1970s as (in the words of one senior Fateh member) a "militant irritant" to the PLO's official policy.15 Freed from the responsibilities that Fateh bore as the leading Palestinian organization, smaller groups sought to extend their political support by outbidding the mainstream PLO leadership-a process for which Fateh, and not they, often bore the political costs. In turn, Fateh adopted policy unilateralism and ambiguity to achieve its goals-a practice that only increased the suspicion of other Palestinian groups. One result of this was to encourage further PFLP and DFLP criticism of Fateh policies, often not so much on the grounds of staunch opposition, but out of concern as to exactly what they meant.16

Thus multiple centers of authority coexisted, even competed. Organization and discipline suffered. Reflecting both this and the crisis-laden atmosphere of the times, Lebanese decision-making was generally ad-hoc and fragmented in nature. Those supposedly "unified" decisions that were taken were usually little more than paper exercises.

One example of this was the PLO's efforts to reduce friction by removing Palestinian offices and military deployments from populated Lebanese urban areas. This commitment was made, in various forms, perhaps two dozen times between 1969 and 1982. Yet, whether because of changing conditions, inefficiency or quite deliberate inertia, it was never really implemented. By the early 1980s, it was understandable if many Lebanese no longer believed what the PLO said, and turned to the simple but effective anti-Palestinian propaganda of its opponents.

Maintaining Sanctuary
The PLO's experience in Lebanon illuminates something of the dilemmas of insurgent-sanctuary relations, and of the challenges it poses insurgent policy and policy-makers. It does not resolve, however, the central dilemma of that relationship, a dilemma which remains essentially irresolvable: how to maintain sanctuary without compromising the very struggle for which sanctuary is sought. Insurgent activities in and from sanctuary states remain an important (and often indispensable) part of insurgency. Insurgent-related costs from such action will always threaten to damage insurgent-sanctuary relations. Insurgent policy must work within the confines of this contradiction, seeking to balance its opposing tensions without violating either of its essential bounds. In this respect, the PLO's Lebanese experience suggests some general observations about the challenges of maintaining sanctuary.

First, the PLO's Lebanese experience demonstrates that the military value of a sanctuary state as a launching point for guerrilla activities forms part, and in some cases only a small part, of the full value of external sanctuary to an insurgent movement. As important (and sometimes more important) is the sanctuary's political value as an administrative headquarters, meeting point, logistics base, and center for training, diplomatic and informational activities. There is a natural tendency for the mystique of the guerrilla to dominate both insurgent thinking and thinking about insurgency. But in the end insurgency is a process with political aims, a process wherein military action is only a means to an end. This being so, effective insurgent policies are those tailored to the real value of maintaining sanctuary. In cases where safeguarding the benefits of sanctuary outweigh the immediate value of guerrilla action, insurgents may be led to suspend the latter so as to enhance prospects of the former.

Second, it is important to recognize the foundations upon which the primary protection of external sanctuary lies-not geography or the defensive military capabilities of the insurgents, but rather the "sanctity" of international borders and all that this implies in the contemporary state system. The regional balance of power, the relative strength of the sanctuary and "enemy," and the extent of international support for the former play the major role in determining the degree to which the insurgents' opponent will be able to engage in coercive violence against the insurgents' host. The requirements of safeguarding sanctuary may thus lead insurgents to pursue active diplomatic efforts designed to mobilize the insurgents' external allies in such a manner as to bolster the sanctuary's willingness and ability to resist external intervention. Internally, insurgents must strive to uphold the symbolism of their host's territorial sovereignty if they wish to enhance its capability to deter intervention. Any failure to do so only serves to invite greater intervention.

All of this serves to underline the value-and limitations-of insurgent adoption of a strategy of restraint. The limitation of insurgent-related costs represents the most obvious method of minimizing the likelihood of confrontation between insurgents and their host. But the ability of an insurgent movement to utilize such a strategy will be sharply limited if either of two conditions is present: if the insurgent's presence itself poses a structural, revolutionary threat to the stability of the host regime; or if the local balance-of-power is such that their opponent is able to pursue a policy of massive punishment and retaliation relatively free from international constraints. In such cases, other insurgent strategies-defense, internal and external alliance-assume greater importance. Moreover, insurgents face a probable expansion of the conflict zone, either through sustained conflict with the host regime, or through military intervention by their opponent and the consequent transformation of one-time sanctuary into a battleground.

Finally, the importance of insurgent cohesion, command and control-emphasized by O'Neill and others17-reemerges from the PLO/Lebanese case as a variable of key importance to the development of insurgent-sanctuary relations. Guerrilla ill-discipline is as much a threat to insurgent-sanctuary relations as is enemy military action. Indeed, in some respects its effect is more damaging. Uncontrolled and negative behavior on the part of insurgents increases the cost to their host of sheltering their presence. It weakens local support for the guerrillas. And it increases the likelihood of enemy intervention by simultaneously heightening the insurgents' profile whilst weakening the very national sovereignty behind which they shelter. Sanctuary is best maintained, therefore, by a low profile. This requires high standards of discipline and coordination, in turn necessitating organizational and leadership structures that address the intrinsic problems of insurgent authority to control the potentially unruly behavior of insurgent personnel.

The PLO's own political structure met the task of safeguarding and promoting a Palestinian identity and national cause. In its establishment of the status of the PLO in the eyes of its population as sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, it achieved a remarkable degree of popular authority. It demonstrated independence and even unity in times of severe external challenge. But it never resolved those chronic problems of disunity and lack of coordination that were evident day-to-day at both the strategic and tactical levels. As a result, Lebanese policies were ineffectively applied. The popular Lebanese base upon which it stood was progressively weakened by tajawuzat. Lack of cohesion facilitated penetration of the Palestinian movement by Arab intelligence services; gaps in Palestinian ranks were exploited by hostile propaganda. Under the pressure of events-events often deliberately exacerbated by the PLO's opponents to set the organization continually off-balance-insufficient attention was paid to questions of relations with the LNM, and of Lebanese public opinion. Lebanese goodwill was increasingly assumed, not cultivated; the PLO's military preponderance in West Beirut and the south allowed to mask its narrowing Lebanese support.

The issue of Palestinian unity and responsibility would prove an important one, both before and after 1982. The PLO could not directly control Israeli attacks against Lebanon, the Lebanese Deuxième Bureau, the Phalange, the policies of Arab states, or many of the other objective factors that so shaped developments in Lebanon. It was, however, expected to control its own behavior and the behavior of those under its umbrella. As its involvement and intervention in Lebanese affairs grew, such expectations grew, even as the PLO found itself beset with tasks beyond its capabilities. In its efforts to meet these, the PLO sought to maximize its short-term influence over the security situation in Lebanon. But it did so in ways (Lebanese "shops," the use of military force) which often aggravated the long-term situation. As Salah Khalaf later observed, the PLO was "afraid that we were going to lose our position, our power or authority in Lebanon," and acted accordingly. But this had a cost, and after 1982 the PLO would have "no authority to lose."18

Indeed, it was to be in the aftermath of the August 1982 evacuation of PLO personnel from Beirut too that the full legacy-and cost-of earlier PLO policy in Lebanon would make itself felt. As a consequence of the war, the PLO suffered serious losses. With the destruction of its Beirut infrastructure, its cohesion was weakened even as its vulnerability to the cross-currents of regional politics grew. This exacerbated existing internal divisions to the point of an open and bitter four-year split in PLO ranks from 1983, and open combat between Palestinian factions around the Lebanese city of Tripoli late that year. Shorn of their fighters, Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and throughout south Lebanon found themselves under attack from hostile Lebanese militias, culminating in the massacre of refugees by the Israeli-supported Lebanese Forces at Sabra-Shatila in September 1982, and more than two years of even more costly attacks by the Syrian-supported Amal militia from 1985. In this context the PLO was to face an uphill struggle to reestablish even a modicum of its former influence, infrastructure and security in Lebanon.


1. Khalidi, Under Siege, p. 17.

2. Interview with Dr. Nabil Sha'th, 9 November 1986.

3. Interview with senior aide to 'Arafat and member of the Fateh Revolutionary Council, November 1986.

4. "Lebanon is very important for Syria, and when Syrian and Palestinian policy conflict it leads to what happened in 1976." Interview with 'Isam al-Qadi, 20 December 1986.

5. Interview with Salah Khalaf, 27 January 1987.

6. Suhayl Natur, "Could Palestinian Concessions Have Prevented the Israeli Invasion of Lebanon?" Shu'un filastiniyya 136/137 (March/April 1983): 29-42 [in Arabic].

7. At their peak in 1970, some 390 Palestinian operations from Lebanon resulted in some 174 Israeli casualties. The number of Palestinian cross-border attacks fell thereafter. In 1981 (a year which saw two-weeks of intense cross-border fighting in July), the IDF reported 141 cross-border incidents with a much lower casualty toll. Although Palestinian shelling did provoke significant panic in Qiryat Shemona and other Israeli development towns on the northern frontier, by this time the locus of confrontation had been pushed northwards into south Lebanon.

8. Although others would disagree, at least some West Bank PLO figures hold this view. Interviews with Mustafa Milhelm (PLO Central Council), Amman, 25 December 1986; 'Abd al-Jawad Salih (former member of PLO Executive Committee), Amman, 24 July 1989. Similarly, Sabri Jiryas argued in an article in Shu'un filastiniyya (January-February 1985) that the gains of Palestinian armed struggle had sometimes been marginal, and that much greater attention was needed to building support mechanisms for political mobilization in the occupied territories and international diplomatic activities.

9. Interview with Sa'id Musa Muragha, 10 February 1987.

10. After the 1982 war, a great deal of criticism of the PLO's military structure and deployment was voiced, especially with regard to the regularization of PLO forces and the acquisition of some types of heavy weapons. In this debate, however, relatively little attention was given to evaluating the interrelationship between military operations and Palestinian political strategy. One notable exception is an incisive analysis of the weaknesses of Palestinian armed struggle by Yezid Khalaf, who argued that not only had Palestinian military action often been poorly conceived and ineffectively implemented, but that it had also not been clearly tied to Palestinian political objectives. See: Khalaf, "About Palestinian Military Thought," Shu'un filastiniyya 150/151 (September/October 1985): 33-55 [in Arabic]; see also, Sayigh, "Palestinian Armed Struggle."

11. According to PNC Speaker (1971-84) Khalid al-Fahum, the PNC had almost no influence over PLO policy in Lebanon; interview, Damascus, 20 December 1986.

12. Interviews with Dr. Ahmad Sidqi al-Dajani, 9 December 1986; Dr. As'ad 'Abd al-Rahman, 15 and 23 December 1986; and members of the Office of the PLO Chairman.

13. Interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.

14. Interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987.

15. In the latter half of the 1970s, this challenge was surpassed by the "adjunct irritant" posed by Arab-sponsored guerilla organizations. Interview with Dr. Nabil Sha'th, 8 January 1987.

16. Both the DFLP and PFLP, for example, had been publicly critical of attempts by Salah Khalaf of Fateh to resurrect the PLO-Phalange dialogue in 1978. Privately, however, members of the senior leadership of both groups suggest that they did not have a problem with dialogue per se, but rather with the way in which it was being conducted (interviews, Damascus, December 1986-February 1987).

17. O'Neill, Armed Struggle in Palestine, pp. 159-160.

18. Interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987.

previous top next
  Copyright © 2008 PRRN home   contact us   sitemap