The Arab League, the regional organisation of Arab countries, established the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1964 with the proclaimed aim of the “liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle, in part by acting as an umbrella political organisation to centralise the leadership of various Palestinian groups. The Arab defeat in the 1967 War enabled the PLO to forge a more independent path from Arab states. In 1974, the PLO was recognised by the Arab Summit as the “sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” (and many other states around the world went on to recognise this status). Since then the PLO has represented Palestine at the United Nations.
The PLO entered into negotiations with Israel in the early 1990s, culminating in the Oslo Accords in 1993. As a result of the Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established. The PA is an interim self-governing body created to pave the way for a future, autonomous Palestinian state, assuming “control” in the areas from which Israeli forces were redeployed after 1993: in the West Bank, for instance, Area B, which comprises 22 percent of the territory, is under the full administrative control of the Palestinian Authority but under the military control of Israel; Area A, which makes up 17 percent of the West Bank, is under full Palestinian control; and Area C, which comprises 61 percent of the West Bank, is under full Israeli control). In those areas under the Palestinian Authority’s administrative control, the function of the PA is limited to a municipal role that includes waste management, public transport, and social services. Israel continues to retain effective control over these areas.
Today many Palestinian scholars and activists argue that the PA has lost its legitimacy: remaining in control beyond the stated timeline of the Accords, lacking political representation and popular support, and in practice assisting in the management of Israel’s occupation over Palestinian territories rather than challenging it and moving towards autonomy.1