Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP; Al-Jabha Al-Dimuqratiya Li-Tahrir Filastin)

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DEMOCRATIC FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE (DFLP; al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiya li-Tahrir Filastin)

Palestinian movement, formed on 21 February 1969, after a split in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Originally Marxist-Leninist in allegiance, the DFLP, formerly called PDFLP (Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine), was created through the impetus of Nayif Hawatma and Yasir Abd Rabbo, who had fallen out with George Habash, head of the PFLP. This movement advocated an extreme left program, recommending active struggle against "conservative Arab regimes and the State of Israel." Through the 1970s it evolved toward democratic socialism and in favor of a secular Palestinian state. Striving to prioritize Palestinian unity over ideological quarrels, the DFLP often served as an intermediary between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Rejection Front. The DFLP was also one of the first Palestinian groups to establish contact with Israeli leftist parties, while still supporting armed struggle against Israel. In 1978, at the time of the Iraqi-Iranian conflict, the DFLP broke its ties with Baghdad to support the Khomeini revolution.

In 1983 the movement formed a joint political-military command with the PFLP, and in March 1984, it attempted to constitute an opposition front to al-Fatah by creating the Democratic Alliance, which was composed of the DFLP, the PFLP, the Palestine Communist Party (PCP), and a part of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF); but within several months, personality conflicts and ideological differences had dissolved this union. The DFLP and the PFLP decided to consolidate their activity in a unified command. Within the DFLP, an armed group called the "Red Star" was formed, charged with carrying out military actions on behalf of the front against Israel. In 1990 a fracture surfaced in the movement, caused in part by the internal crisis in the Soviet Union. The following year, the DFLP came out against the peace process that had started in Madrid, arguing that other Palestinian movements had not been consulted on the program advocated by the PLO in the negotiations.

Serious differences emerged between the head of the DFLP, Nayif Hawatma, and his second in command, Yasir Abd Rabbo, who favored a rapprochement with Yasir Arafat. Having quit the DFLP, Abd Rabbo founded a dissident movement, the Palestinian Democratic Union (PDU or FIDA), which backed the policies of al-Fatah. Following the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian accord of 13 September 1993, the DFLP and the PFLP decided to withdraw from the executive committee of the PLO, and appealed to "all national and Islamic forces and Palestinian notables to come together in a coalition to bring about the failure of this accord." A few days later, the two movements joined with the Palestinian opposition front, the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF). In August 1994, hoping to make their opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian accord more effective, the DFLP and the PFLP announced, once more, the creation of a joint military command. In May 1995, the partisans of Arafat tried vainly to provoke a split in the DFLP. Differing with the other parties within the APF, the DFLP distanced itself from it, in an attempt to become a political force in the Palestinian autonomous territories, while still maintaining its opposition to the Oslo Accords.

On 19 February, Taysir Khalid, one of the principal lieutenants of the DFLP, expressed a wish to have his movement participate in negotiations with Israel on a definitive status for the Palestinian territories. In February 1999, at the funeral of King Hussein of Jordan, Hawatma shook hands with the president of Israel, Ezer Weizman. In August 1999 meetings took place in Cairo between the leaders of the DFLP, the PFLP, and al-Fatah, in an attempt to coordinate a common strategy in the context of negotiations on the final status of the Palestinian territories. In October 2000, a month after the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the Palestinian territories, the head of the DFLP called on his militants to support the uprising but not to resort to the use of arms against Israel. At the end of April 2001, while the Intifada was intensifying, the leadership of the front launched an appeal for general mobilization and the formation of a "national emergency organization," uniting all Palestinian forces and responsible for coordinating the actions of the Intifada, in parallel with negotiations with the Israelis. On 24 August, the DFLP claimed credit for a raid in the Gaza Strip, in the course of which three Israeli soldiers were killed. In early 2004, Hawatma held discussions with members of the Israeli Meretz Party with a view to promoting a two-state solution, and called for an end to attacks on civilians. The DFLP, whose headquarters is in Damascus, is well established in Jordan, the West Bank, and in Lebanon. As of 2004, its principal leaders are: Nayif Hawatma (secretary general), Qays Abdul Hakim (assistant), Ramzi Rabah, Qays Samarraʾiʾ (Abu Leila), and Taysir Khalid.

SEE ALSO Abd Rabbo, Yasir; Afarat, Yasir; Fatah, al-; Habash, George; Hawatma, Nayif; Palestine Liberation Organization; Palestinian Democratic Union; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

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