Arab League Recognizes the PLO, 1974

Reference: Le Monde

Seventh Arab Summit Resolution on Palestine, Rabat, Morocco, October 1974

The Seventh Arab Summit Conference, was held in Rabat, Morocco, in October 1974, one year after the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. It brought together the leaders of twenty Arab states and representatives of the PLO, which had adopted its Ten Point Program in Cairo the previous June. PLO leaders demanded unconditional recognition as sole representatives of the Palestinian people, threatening a walkout if their demand were not met. The PLO required a statement from the conference that any Palestinian territory liberated by Arab forces would be turned over to the “Palestinian people” as represented by their organization. Jordan, which had annexed the West Bank in 1949 and considered it Jordanian territory, protested. Jordan noted that recognition on these terms would give the PLO sovereignty over half of the population in the East Bank as well, and that in fact the annexation of the West Bank had been approved at the time by popular vote.

A compromise solution was adopted that nonetheless favored PLO interests. The conference formally acknowledged the right of the Palestinian people to a separate homeland, but without specifying that its territory was restricted to the West Bank. Most important, the PLO was for the first time officially recognized by all the Arab states as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” The Arab heads of state also called for close cooperation between the front-line states and the PLO but prohibited interference by other Arab states in Palestinian affairs.

The Rabat Summit declaration conferred a mantle of legitimacy on the PLO that was previously absent. It gave official Arab recognition to PLO territorial claims to the West Bank and unambiguously put the fate of the Palestinian people solely in the hands of the PLO. Hussein opposed the declaration, although he eventually signed it under intense Arab pressure and after the Arab oil-producing states promised to provide Jordan with an annual subsidy of $US300 million. Despite his acquiescence to the Rabat declaration and subsequent statements in support of the PLO, Hussein persisted in viewing the declaration as an ambiguous document that was open to differing interpretations. The PLO, along with the rest of the Arab world, viewed Hussein’s consent at Rabat as a renunciation of Jordanian claims to the West Bank. Hussein nonetheless continued to have aspirations concerning Jordanian control of the occupied territories. The wide gulf separating the two views was the major source of tension between the PLO and Jordan throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Following the Rabat Summit, the PLO scored an impressive political victory in the international arena. In late November 1974, the UN recognized PLO representation of the Palestinian people, and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat addressed the General Assembly in Arabic, his pistol at his side. In addition, in a joint communiqué issued the same month, President Gerald R. Ford of the United States and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev acknowledged the “legitimate interests” of the Palestinians in accordance with the UN resolutions. Nonetheless, a UN draft resolution in 1976 proposing to reaffirm the right of the Palestinians to self-determination– and including the right to establish an independent state–was vetoed in the Security Council by the United States, which called instead for a “reasonable and acceptable definition of Palestinian interests.”


The Seventh Arab Summit Conference after exhaustive and detailed discussions conducted by their majesties, Excellencies, and Highnesses, the Kings, Presidents and Amirs on the Arab situation in general and the Palestine problem in particular, within their national and international frameworks ; and after hearing, the statements submitted by His Majesty King Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom. of Jordan and His Excellency Brother Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and after the statements of their Majesties and Excellencies the Kings and Presidents, in an atmosphere of candour and sincerity and full responsibility ; and in view of the Arab leaders’ appreciation of the joint national responsibility required of them at present for confronting aggression and performing duties of liberation, enjoined by the unity of the Arab cause and the unity of its struggle ; and in view of the fact that all are aware of Zionist schemes still being made to eliminate the Palestinian existence and to obliterate the Palestinian national entity ; and in view of the Arab leaders’ belief in the necessity to frustrate these attempts and schemes and to counteract them by supporting and strengthening this Palestinian national entity, by providing all requirements to develop and increase its ability to ensure that the Palestinian people recover their rights. in full ; and by meeting responsibilities of close cooperation with its brothers within the framework of collective Arab commitment ;

And in light of the victories achieved by Palestinian struggle in the confrontation with the Zionist enemy, at the Arab and international levels, at the United Nations, and of the obligation imposed thereby to continue joint Arab action to develop and increase the scope of these victories ; and having received the views of all on all the above, and having succeeded in cooling the differences between brethren within the framework of consolidating Arab solidarity, the Seventh Arab Summit Conference resolves the following :

1. To affirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to return to their homeland ;

2. To affirm the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent national authority under the command of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in any Palestinian territory that is liberated. This authority, once it is established, shall enjoy the support of the Arab states in all fields and at all levels ;

3. To support the Palestine Liberation Organization in the exercise of its responsibility at the national and international levels within the framework of Arab commitment ;

4. To call on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Palestine Liberation Organization to devise a formula for the regulation of relations between them in the light of these decisions so as to ensure their implementation ;

5. That all the Arab states undertake to defend Palestinian national unity and not to interfere in the internal affairs of Palestinian action.