By contrast, Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which has split away from Habash's organization in 1968, wanted to focus more on the tactical implementation of armed struggle.
The PDFLP soon gained a reputation as the most intellectual of the Palestinian fedayeen groups, and drew heavily on Marxist-Leninist theory to explain the situation in the Middle East. Its other leaders included Yasser Abd Rabbo.
The PDFLP's original political orientation was based on the view that Palestinian national goals could be achieved only through revolution of the masses and "people's war". However, it would soon come around to a more moderate standpoint and while preserving a hard-line attitude to armed struggle, the party began theorizing on various compromise solutions.
From the mid-1970s, the group occupied a political stance midway between Yasser Arafat and the PLO hardliners. The DFLP condemned attacks outside Israel (such as the aircraft hijackings for which the Habash PFLP gained notoriety) and was essential in making the binational state the goal of the PLO in the 1970s, insisting on the need for cooperation between Arabs and Jews. Still, while pioneering Palestinian-Israeli peace talks through making early contact with Jewish and Israeli peace campaigners, including Matzpen, the DFLP simultaneously conducted numerous small bombings and minor assaults against Israeli targets, refusing to give up the armed struggle. It also performed some more major attacks on civilians, of which most well known are the Ma'alot massacre of 1974 and the Avivim school bus massacre.
In 1978 the DFLP temporarily switched sides and joined the Rejectionist Front after clashing with Arafat on several issues, but it would continue to serve as a mediator in the factional disputes of the PLO. In the tense situation leading up to the 1983 Fatah rebellion, during the Lebanese Civil War, DFLP offered mediation to prevent the Syrian-backed formation of a rival Fatah leadership under Said al-Muragha (Abu Musa), the Fatah al-Intifada faction. Its efforts ultimately failed, and the PLO became embroiled what was in effect a Palestinian civil war.
The First Intifada (1987-93) provoked a shift in Palestinian politics towards the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which proved a severe handicap for the largely diaspora-based DFLP. With the swift rise of Islamism and religious groups such as Hamas in the 1980s, the DFLP faded among the Palestinian youth, and internal confusion over the future path of the organization paralysed political decision-making.
There were reports of armed clashes between the factions in Syria during the split. Essentially the Damascus-headquartered DFLP under Hawatmeh was able to retain its external branches, whereas the majority of the organization within Palestine, mainly on the West Bank, was taken over by FIDA.
In 1999, at a meeting in Cairo, the DFLP and the PFLP agreed to cooperate with the PLO leadership in final status negotiations with Israel. The DFLP was subsequently represented in the Palestinian delegation at the unsuccessful Camp David negotiations of July 2000.
The DFLP has been largely unable to make its presence felt during the al-Aqsa Intifada, which began in 2000. The leadership is stationed in Damascus, and most of the DFLP organization on the Occupied Territories unraveled in the FIDA split. Its military capacity has been fading fast since the 1993 cease-fire between the PLO and Israel, which the DFLP respected despite its objections to the Oslo Accords.
Since the beginning of the second Intifada the DFLP has carried out a number of shooting attacks against Israeli targets, such as the 25 August 2001 attack on a military base in Gaza that killed three Israeli soldiers and wounded seven others. However, its military capabilities in the Occupied Territories remain limited, and the refocusing on armed struggle during the Intifada has further weakened the organization.
The DFLP confines all its military activities to the Occupied Territories, and publicly argues against targeting anyone or anything inside the Green Line, saying Palestinians must fight only the occupation, not Israeli civilians.
On September 11, 2001, an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks in the United States on behalf of the DFLP. This was immediately denied by Nayef Hawatmeh, who strongly condemned the attacks. Although the accusations gained some attention in the days following the attacks, they are now universally regarded as false.
The DFLP ran a candidate, Taysir Khalid, in the Palestinian Authority presidential election in 2005. He gained 3.35% of the vote. The party had initially participated in discussions with the PFLP and the Palestinian People's Party on running a joint left-wing candidate, but these were unsuccessful. It won one seat in the 2005 PA municipal elections.
In the 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Front formed a joint list called al-Badeel (The Alternative) with Palestine Democratic Union (FIDA), the Palestinian People's Party and independents. The list was led by the historic DFLP leader Qais Abd al-Karim (Abou Leila). It received 2.8% of the popular vote and won two of the Council's 132 seats.
The DFLP retains important influence within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It was traditionally the third-largest group within the PLO, after Fatah and the PFLP, and since no new elections have been held to the PNC or the Executive Committee since 1988, the DFLP still commands important sectors within the organization. The PLO's role has admittedly diminished in later years, in favor of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), but it is still the recognized representative of the Palestinian people, and a reactivation of the PLO's constitutional supremacy over the PNA in connection with power struggles in Palestinian society is a distinct possibility.
Subsequently after the closure of the 5th national general congress, the Central Committee re-elected Hawatmeh as general secretary of the DFLP. The Central Committee also elected a 13-member Polital Bureau:
The DFLP mainly attracts middle-class Palestinians with a more socially liberal and secular lifestyle, as well as Palestinian Christians, primarily in cites like Nablus, and Bethlehem.
The party publishes a weekly newspaper in several Arab countries, al-Hurriya (Liberty).