Shadow Palestine Government-in-exile Emerges; Military Strength Estimated at 20,000

A complex Arab political-military organization that displays the features of a shadow Palestinian government-in-exile has emerged from the crisis in Jordan last week. Its main element is a 27-man Central Committee representing the various Palestinian guerrilla groups which last Tuesday elected El Fatah chief Yassir Arafat as its chairman. Mr. Arafat is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella body embracing the ten commando groups based in Jordan and Lebanon that have been conducting guerrilla warfare against Israel. The new Central Committee represents an expansion of the 11-member PLO executive committee. Its creation was decided on earlier this month in Cairo at a session of the Palestine National Council. The latter consists of 112 members representing commandos, students, workers and individual Palestinian leaders in host countries. It meets every six months and according to observers, acts as a Palestinian legislature in exile. The speed with which the new Central Committee was formed has been attributed to the virtual civil war that broke out in Jordan a week ago. The Palestine National Council adopted three major resolutions at its Cairo meeting. They called for formation of the Central Committee; formation of a unified military council and formation of a joint committee of commandos and leftist political organizations in Jordan and Lebanon to “protect” Palestinian “revolutionaries” against “counter-revolutionary” elements in those countries. In terms of military strength the guerrillas have an estimated 20,000 men under arms in Jordan, half of whom belong to El Fatah.

Commando strength in Lebanon is placed at 4000 men, a third of them El Fatah and a third members of the Syrian-backed As Saiqah guerrilla movement. The rest belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other smaller commando groups. The Palestine Liberation Organization which has acted in effect as a government-in-exile for two million displaced Palestinians since 1964, has nominal command over a 12,000-man army of Palestinians. But part of that force is under the effective commend of the Egyptian Army on the Suez Canal front, another part under Iraqi command in Jordan and a third is in Syria, commanded by the Syrian Army. Observers here said it remained to be seen how effectively commando actions can be coordinated under the new central political and military commands. El Fatah is relatively the most moderate. Saiqah, the second largest. Is controlled by the ruling Syrian Baath Party which is regarded as the most militantly leftist of the Arab regimes. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is goaded from the left by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an even more radical group that split from it some time ago. In addition, there is the Palestine Arab Organization which broke from the Popular Front, the Action Group for the Liberation of Palestine which broke from El Fatah, the Liberation Front sponsored by the Iraqi Baath Party and the Popular Liberation Forces, the military arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Observers here say that if the new Palestinian body can avoid internecine warfare and agree to a coordinated political line, the nucleus may have been created for a Palestinian entity with which the government of Israel may eventually find Itself forced to negotiate.

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