The Palestine Liberation Organization
and the Twilight of the Soviet Union
With the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev to the leadership of the Soviet Union in March 1985, the foundations of Soviet policy underwent a fundamental shift both at home and abroad. The Gorbachev era saw the rise of glasnost and perestroika, coupled with growing economic crisis and domestic conflict; the political transformation of Eastern Europe; and a marked change in East-West relations. In the end, the forces unleashed by these very changes would overwhelm both their architect and the political system over which he presided. 1
At first, the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) officially regarded Gorbachev's reforms in a favorable light, claiming to see in them enhanced prospects for achieving its aim of Palestinian self-determination. According to Faruq Qaddumi, Executive Committee member and head of the P.L.O.'s Political Department:
The world today is going through crucial historic periods characterized by wide changes which will leave significant effects on the Arab's major cause, the Palestine cause. We were happy that the changes in Eastern Europe have gone beyond the reform theory called perestroika`. Substantial changes in social systems and political attitudes have taken place in those states. With regard to alliances ... the axis of the two superpowers has come to an end. ... [As a result] Israel has lost much of its strategic importance for the West. 2
Similarly, senior P.L.O. advisor Bassam Abu Sharif argued:
We don't think that what has happened in Eastern Europe is against our interests. On the contrary, what has happened fits in with what we are fighting for: freedom and democracy. ... Change is coming and history is moving forward.