PLO’s Ten Point Program – Backgrounder

Reference: Wikipedia

PLO’s Ten Point Program is the name of the plan accepted by the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), during the 12th meeting of the PNC which was held in Cairo on 8 June 1974.

The plan called for the establishment of a national authority “over every part of Palestinian territory that is liberated” with the aim of “completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory”. The program implied that the liberation of Palestine may be partial (at least, at some stage), and though it emphasized armed struggle, it did not exclude other means. This allowed the PLO to engage in diplomatic channels, and provided validation for future compromises made by the Palestinian leadership.


Following the failure of the armies of Egypt and Syria to defeat Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the Palestinian leadership began formulating a strategic alternative.

The PLO’s Phased Plan did not stipulate clear operational measures and only repeated the principles of the policies which the Palestinian National Council had accepted in the past: the denial of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242(adopted after the Six Day War), the denial of the existence of the State of Israel and the demand of the return of all Palestinian refugees to their original homes and the establishment of an Arab-Palestinian state in the entire region of Palestine within the pre-1948 borders. The innovation of PLO’s Phased Plan was in the assertion that each step which would lead to the fulfillment of these goals would be a worthy step. It also states that any territory, from the region of Palestine, which would be transferred to an Arab rule should be transferred to Palestinian control, also if the takeover of other territories would be delayed as a result. Some interpret these series of decisions, as a realization of the council in the fact that it can not fulfill all its goals at once, but rather it would be able to do so in gradual small steps, and as a recognition of the council in the possibility of initiating political and diplomatic measures and not just an “armed struggle” (although PLO’s Phased Plan does not consist of a denial of the use of an armed struggle).

The following quotes are taken from three sections of PLO’s Phased Plan which the above section refers to:

  • Section 2 states:
“The Palestine Liberation Organization will employ all means, and first and foremost armed struggle, to liberate Palestinian territory and to establish the independent combatant national authority for the people over every part of Palestinian territory that is liberated. This will require further changes being effected in the balance of power in favor of our people and their struggle.”
  • Section 4 states:
“Any step taken towards liberation is a step towards the realization of the Liberation Organization’s strategy of establishing the democratic Palestinian State specified in the resolutions of the previous Palestinian National Councils.”
  • Section 8 states:
“Once it is established, the Palestinian national authority will strive to achieve a union of the confrontation countries, with the aim of completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory, and as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity.”

Palestinian reaction to PLO’s Ten point program

Despite the fact that the ten point program calls for the elimination of Israel, it still met with opposition from other hardline factions such as the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which also fought to eliminate Israel. As a result, the 10 point program led to several radical PLO factions (such as the PFLP, PFLP-GC and others) breaking out to form the Rejectionist Front, which would act independently of PLO over the following years. The Rejectionist front was mainly worried that the ten point program could potentially turn into a peace agreement between the Palestinian leadership and the State of Israel. Suspicion between the Arafat-led mainstream and more hard-line factions, inside and outside the PLO, have continued to dominate the inner workings of the organization ever since, often resulting in paralysis or conflicting courses of action. A temporary closing of ranks came in 1977, as Palestinian factions joined with hard-line Arab governments in the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front to condemn Egyptian attempts to reach a separate peace with Israel (eventually resulting in the 1979 Camp David Accords).

Israel’s reaction to PLO’s Ten point program

Israel perceived the Ten Point Program as a dangerous policy, mainly because it implied that any future compromise agreement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership would not be honored by the PLO. It raised the fear among Israelis that the Palestinian leadership might be under the intention of exploiting future Israeli territorial compromises in order to “improve positions” for attacking Israel. This program is coined the “PLO’s Step/stage Program” or “PLO’s Phased Plan” (Tokhnit HaSHlavim or Torat HaSHlavim).

Over the years, negotiations took place between Israel and the PLO as well as other Palestinian leaderships, all while there was still a strong concern among large parts of the Israeli public and the Israeli leadership that the negotiations were not sincere, and that the Palestinians’ willingness to compromise is just a smoke-screen for implementing the Ten Point Program.

When the Oslo Accords were signed, many Israeli right-wing politicians openly claimed that this is part of the ploy to implement the Ten Point Program. Some of them based this claim on the fact that only 12 days before the signing of the Oslo Accords (September 13, 1993), a pre-recorded speech directed towards the Palestinian people by Arafat himself was broadcast on the Jordanian radio, in which Arafat made the following statement about the Oslo agreement:

[the agreement] will be a basis for an independent Palestinian state in accordance with the Palestinian National Council resolution issued in 1974… The PNC resolution issued in 1974 calls for the establishment of a national authority on any part of Palestinian soil from which Israel withdraws or which is liberated.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has regarded that the Palestinian leadership asserted that the Oslo Accord is part of the PLO’s 1974 phased plan for Israel’s destruction.

The validity of PLO’s Phased Plan nowadays is unclear. PLO’s Phased Plan was never officially canceled, but in general, the Palestinian leadership has stopped referring to it since the late 1980s. Recently, however, several statements made by PLO officials on the subject indicate that the Phased Plan has not been abandoned – most notably the statement of the PLO ambassador to Lebanon which stated in an interview that the “two-state solution will lead to the collapse of Israel”.

Nowadays there is a debate within the Israeli public and leadership on whether the PLO’s Phased Plan still represent the thinking patterns and official policy of certain factions within the Palestinian leadership and of the Palestinian people and whether the Palestinian public and leadership still aim to ultimately take control over the entire region of Palestine or do Palestinian territorial claims apply only to the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.